--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
A French entomologist, attending a symposium in Cairo, finds a cruious kind of bean being on a market stall. It is claimed the beans, derived from the scarab beetle, have magic powers; specifically the power to guarantee the brith of a male infant - and when the entomologist does some research in to the matter, discovering the incidence of female birth has become increasingly rare, he is left in no doubt that the world has entered intoa critical phase of its history.
As this beloved daughter Beatrice approaches maturity, the entomologist and his partner question the validity of gender bias, and attempt to redress the growing imbalance before it reaches irreversible proportions. But in the poverty and famine of the South, where male children can mean the difference between survival and starvation, the popularity of the scarab beans is already taking devastating effect.