Book Review: ‘The End of Men’ by Christina Sweeney-Baird

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC copy of this novel in return for my honest review.

I approached ‘The End of Men’ with rather a lot of trepidation. I know that there will inevitably be a deluge of literature about the current Covid-19 pandemic, but I’m looking forward to reading it retrospectively, once we’re no-longer in lockdown: when I’m no-longer worrying about what I’m allowed to do, how to keep loved ones safe and, for goodness sake, I’m allowed to leave the house for more than three government-sanctioned reasons. It seems too soon to start reading plague literature and I was really concerned that this book may trigger all of my current anxieties. Strangely, the reverse happened.

If this book had been published in 2019, I would have categorised it as dystopia, possibly even feminist. In 2021 however, it reads as a fictional, exaggerated account of recent history, a point that has not gone unnoticed by the author.

This is not, however, about Covid. In fact it was written just before the current pandemic. ‘The Plague’ is a readily-spread virus which sweeps through the world at an alarming rate, carried by men and women, young and old. Within hours of the first deaths, a doctor recognises that it is killing its male hosts within days of them contracting it, but only men. And so whilst many things are alarmingly similar to our current situation, so many other things are much, much worse. In a way, my reading of this book has actually settled my nerves as the news no-longer seems quite as extreme.

Outside of the times within which it is being published, this would always have been a great read, and it’s one of the best things I’ve read in ages. The multiple-character perspective sheds light on how a pandemic affects journalists, doctors, scientists, politicians, married and unmarried women, and even one man. It questions how society is constructed, and challenges the role of women within society, without being overtly feminist in its tone, and this is refreshing.

It’s a fast-paced, well-characterised and well-plotted science-fiction thriller. I can see it being enormously popular, and ‘The End of Men’ would sit comfortably next to novels such as ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘Never Let You Go’ and ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’. A fabulous read!

‘The End of Men’ is due to be published on 29th April 2021.

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