I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
About The Book
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
The End of Men was written before Coronavirus turned our lives upside down but it is weirdly prescient in some ways. Set in the year 2025 ,it is about a virus (or the Plague as it is referred to in the novel) which strikes very quickly indeed with two days of infection followed by a raging fever and certain death within hours. The thing is, this virus only effects men, women are hosts but are not felled by the disease.
It is early November and Amanda, a Doctor in a busy A&E in Glasgow treats a man who was admitted a couple of hours earlier with flu. One of the junior doctors has given him paracetamol and sent bloods off for tests but his temperature is rising to dangerous levels and nothing they do brings it down. Amanda watches helplessly as this fit, young man dies in front of her. Then another man is brought into A&E with similar symptoms. And then another. Amanda realises that each of these men had visited the A&E two days earlier and were treated by the same nurse, either she is a murderer or there is something Very Bad happening indeed. She contacts Public Health Scotland and is ignored and dismissed because of prior mental health issues and she is labelled as unstable and hysterical. She contacts newspapers and they fail to realise the importance and she can only watch on helplessly as the virus takes hold, killing man after man.
Written from the perspectives of a myriad of people; Amanda, Catherine a woman living in London with her husband and son, Elizabeth a scientist from America, a female journalist for the Washington Post and Dawn who works for MI5 amongst others, this book examines the many ways in which both women and society are affected by the Plague. The voices are distinctive providing a rounded view of the early days of the pandemic, the years of the plague and how the world rebuilds.
Sweeney-Baird has created a world where men are in the minority (a lucky few either beat the virus or are immune) and women are in control. I found the exploration of this incredibly interesting to read about, especially the domino effect caused by the lack of men. Initially it is the grief of losing a husband, brother, son or father, and then it is the realisation that our armed forces, our Government, our agriculture, our waste disposal, our hospitals and police forces are all filled with a majority of men. What happens when we lose that level of skill? Women step up to fill the gaps, but some jobs need intensive training, and the few women already trained are already working long hours to try and meet demand.
And what about reproduction? The virus does not distinguish on age so newborn boys are at high-risk. How do we go about repopulating the world? These issues are both complicated and multi-layered, throwing up ethical dilemmas and societal implications. It makes for emotive reading but is never saccharine sweet. It really made my mind tick and I was intrigued by the thought processes presented in the narrative.
Reading a book about a fictional global pandemic whilst in the midst of an actual global pandemic sounds like a crazy idea, but actually, I found it strangely reassuring. To be fair, I read this at a time when things were starting to re-open, I could meet family and friends for a meal or a drink and I was one vaccine down – I’m not sure how I would’ve fared reading it a year or so ago. But also, there were things in this book which haven’t happened to us, society hasn’t broken down, we haven’t had mass shortages of food, which is a blessing. I half read/half listened to this on audiobook and I would highly recommend the latter as it allowed me to get to grips with the different characters and really helped the brilliant world-building within the pages.
This is an accomplished and extraordinary book which I really enjoyed. It is a wonderful piece of speculative fiction which takes an idea and runs with it, examining power, injustice, loss, grief, fear and hope in an eloquent and absorbing way. Recommended!
About The Author
Christina Sweeney-Baird was born in 1993 and grew up in North London and Glasgow. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a First in 2015. She works as a corporate litigation lawyer in London. The End of Men is her first novel.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to The Borough Press for supplying me with a copy of the book via Netgalley.