Review of The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.
The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.
What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.
In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope.

Firstly I would like to thank Borough Press and Tandem collective for the gifted copy of this book for a read-along. You can check out my Instagram story highlights to see my thoughts as the book progressed.The End of Men, as you would think is going to be a difficult read, not only in that it describes a virus that doesn’t care age but may also brings home the stark reality of grief and how that impacts on the human psychology when there is no support around because the world is collectively grieving.

The End of Men was very much a book of 2 halves for me, the first was so captivating I absolutely loved the pacing and the different point of views. I found it interesting to follow some of these characters from the start to the end but others we get a tiny glimpse. My favourite of the glimpses was a lady in Russia who discovered an empowerment that many of us, I’m sure, could get on board with. Amanda made the book for me though she was stoic and knew how to get the job done, even when those around her refused to admit that a job needed doing.  The description of society as the virus took hold was stark and for a book that started to be written in 2018, what would have seemed far fetched a year ago felt strikingly realistic.

However, the second half faltered. Whilst there were many individual elements that I really took pause on, such as trying to fill traditionally male dominated roles in society and how to protect male newborns, there were many parts that I felt were over laboured. I glazed over most of Dawn’s chapters and Maria’s journalistic articles just didn’t work for me as they didn’t stand out from the general writing style in the way a news article should. Her “edgy” journalism just felt careless. It just think it didn’t achieve what it set out to in the closing stages which is a shame as the first section was so fantastic.

Some parts of the social commentary though were well done, I especially liked the way that those left with nothing reacted to those who had blessedly had escaped with their lives relatively intact and the small lights of hope and normality peppered throughout. However, I can’t deny that I spent a lot of the end just waiting for it to, well end, so I think that this will round out with a 3.5 for me.

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