An Excess Male by Maggie Shen – Book Review

While most of us may not be familiar with the details of it, we are aware that China has (at least, until recently) enforced a policy known as the one-child policy. There were several key impacts on this, one being there ended up being a considerable gender imbalance. I’m not going to attempt to summarise the cultural reasons for this as I do not have a great knowledge on it. An Excess Male takes a look at a version of China in the near future, at how policy may be formed for  a large population with such a gender imbalance.

In this world, a woman may have up to three husbands, and may have a child with each. While it seems to give a lot of power to the women, it is still essentially a patriarchal system. This story is of May-ling, who is married to brothers Hanh and XX, and of their attempt to woo a third husband, Wei-guo. In a world full of rules and unspoken nuance, this is not an easy process.  And nothing is really as it seems.

I really enjoyed this book. It is hard to know what the future holds in China in the aftereffects of the one child policy, and I found Shen’s exploration of range of different considerations fascinating. And frustrating. I wanted to break them all free from the expectations and general mores that held them in place, stopping so many from exploring their own personal happiness.

I heard about this book through an article by librarian Jenn Martin called “What to read next if you loved Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and The Handmaid’s Tale

and, as I did love both of those, I checked out several books on the list. This article also introduced me to a new podcast – Friends at the Library, which is Jenn Martin and comedian Jennifer Wong talking books. I love it, and if you like books and general chit chat, check it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s