The Men by Sandra Newman - review by Elizabeth Howcroft

Elizabeth Howcroft

It’s a Woman’s World

The Men

By

Granta Books 263pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

Call it a female utopia or fictional gendercide, the idea of a world without men has long been a spark in the feminist imagination. Early novels with this premise include Mizora (1880–81) by the American feminist Mary E Bradley Lane and Herland (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gillman. They present the reader with alternative societies in which women live free from oppression and fear of male violence. Second-wave feminism saw a resurgence of such stories, with writers including Joanna Russ and Ursula K Le Guin imagining how society could be radically redesigned.

Sandra Newman’s explosive new novel, The Men, starts with a sudden event in which everyone with a Y chromosome simultaneously vanishes into midair. The protagonist, Jane, out camping with her husband and young son, wakes to find them gone. After ten days frantically searching the woods, she emerges into a different world. Planes have fallen from the sky and traffic jams of empty cars block the roads, while grieving women scream in the streets.

The story grows from the ruins of a world which was already broken long before the men disappeared. Newman is unrelenting in her depiction of modern America’s social and racial injustices. But as the initially disparate cast of female characters comes together to form new units in the

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

OUP Niven

Follow Literary Review on Twitter