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  • A tale told at the perfect moment

    Christina Sweeney-Baird certainly managed to find a fortuitous time to tell her story. The End of Men tells the tale of a particularly nasty virus which wipes out a large proportion of the male population. Amazingly, Christina started writing The End of Men before the Coronavirus pandemic started and then had a chance to make edits and tweaks while watching how a similar situation was unfolding around her before publishing it in 2021. This feels very important for this book as older ‘pandemic’ stories seem to lose their realism now we know what would actually happen and the idea of a new story based on current events just makes me roll my eyes (I’m sure there will be a lot of those coming!) What we get instead is an outstanding debut novel which is touching, heart-breaking and poignant and also gives us an important message about our patriarchal society. The story is told through snippets of lived experience. We meet a lot of characters; some of whom stay with us all the way through, some come in for a chapter or two and then leave, some are intertwined and some stand alone. It’s a great way of telling the story and keeps it fresh throughout. The first half of the book is mostly about the world changing as the virus takes hold – it’s a very scary disease and really makes you thankful that the Coronavirus wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been. It’s an inevitability that any man you meet in the book is likely to die and there’s a real helplessness for the women left behind who just have to watch it happen whilst also knowing that they are completely safe. It pulls no punches with the writing and is very heart-breaking in places. The second half of the book focuses of finding the vaccine and the changing of society without the men. It’s a really fascinating read and threw up a lot of scenarios I had not considered. For example, women are safer because safety equipment is built with their frames in mind rather than modified/smaller versions of male equipment. I liked the idea that China had fallen because all of its army and political parties were male and how women were learning traditional ‘male’ jobs to make society work again. With the #NotAllMen and Sarah Everard case in the background, this book really picks up on the female struggle at the moment as well. Overall, The End of Men is a heart-breaking story which has been told at a perfect time in history for us to fully appreciate it. The book is highly recommended and received a Kindig Gem for 2021. Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Collins UK, Harper Fiction & The Borough Press for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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