29 Apr The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
A prescient story of a plague-ridden world, where women must take the helm
And we thought Corona virus was bad!
This story of a plague that halves the world’s population was conceived and written before the real-life pandemic swept the world, and how prescient it now seems!
From the moment a doctor in Glasgow spots the pattern of men falling ill with a flu-like illness then dying within days, to the establishment of a new world order, where women take the helm, this is a truly gripping read!
As their menfolk, from great-grandfathers to newborn sons, die off, the main players in this story – all women – race to discover how and why this is happening, and, most importantly, to find a solution before it’s too late.
And so we meet Catherine, an anthropologist, who fears for husband and toddler son; Amanda, a Glaswegian doctor who must protect her husband and sons while striving to save her patients; Elizabeth, an epidemiologist trying to find the cause of the virus and Lisa, a virologist hoping to discover the cure – and bag herself the Nobel Prize in the process. There’s also Maria Ferreira, New York investigative journalist, asking searching questions.
These women’s narratives run through the book, pushing the story on from 2025, when the plague first strikes, to 2030 when the world has completely changed. Interspersed are the stories of other women and their families and how they cope, from Frances whose husband is stuck on a cruise ship off Iceland to Irina in Moscow who wonders how unlucky she must be that her abusive husband Ivan is one of the 1 in 10 males immune to the disease!
As folks don masks and practise social distancing, countries close their borders, there are shortages of food and riots in the street – it all sounds terrifyingly familiar, doesn’t it?
As well as reflecting – to some extent – our present dilemma – this story addresses so many issues. In a world descended into chaos, the difference between men and women – not just the physiological that makes men susceptible to the plague – but the way they see the world and their place in it, is highlighted in all the strong and poignant situations that have to be faced by the surviving women and the few males still around.
Add to that questions about balance of power, love, loss and grief; greed and selflessness, and you have one really powerful story, tightly woven together through multiple viewpoints.
As Amanda reflects sombrely at one point, “none of this had to happen”, you find yourself asking, was men’s greed to blame? It’s a question the author wisely stops short of asking – it would be too simplistic to give a yes or no answer – but it’s certainly one to reflect on as you finish the book and give thanks that our current situation while devastating for so many, and life-changing in many ways, hopefully won’t mean the end of the human race.
The End of Men is published by The Borough Press in hardback, RRP £14.99
About the Author
The End of Men is Christina Sweeney-Baird’s debut novel.
Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRoseSB