A.M.'s Reviews > The Miracle Inspector

The Miracle Inspector by Helen  Smith
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's review
Nov 16, 2010

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bookshelves: review-copies, fiction, science-fiction
Recommended to A.M. by: Helen Smith
Read from November 17 to 18, 2010

In a near dystopian future, England is partitioned and all those living in London are subject to an oppressive regime. Women cannot work outside the home; transportation is limited; poetry, schools and theatres are banned. Drawn together by their desperate circumstances, Lucas and Angela’s relationship is beginning to fray… until they decide to escape from London, and set upon a dark and twisted path.

The Miracle Inspector is a modern re-telling of dystopian classics such as 1984. The story begins with Lucas, whose job it is to inspect miracles–most of which are, rather obviously, hoaxes. Angela, in the meantime, is stuck at home with nothing to do, and the strain is beginning to show. The two are stuck at an impasse in their relationship, until the words and memory of an outspoken poet stirs them into deciding to escape to Cornwall, supposedly a luxurious haven.

What follows is a darkly comic tale of how their plans fall to pieces, with Angela and Lucas separated early on and forced to find their own paths. Inside London, they must confront the mindless bureaucracy and civilian spies, in danger of being imprisoned at every moment. But outside of London, nothing is as they expected as the characters all search for a miracle that may not even exist.

The Miracle Inspector is a story about the human struggle for survival, about freedom and persistence in the face of despair. From a larger viewpoint, the novel could perhaps be considered a commentary on the politics of bureaucracy, government paranoia, and scaremongering tactics, all of which result in the oppression of women, children, and artists.

The female oppression evident in Smith’s vision of the future was highly reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, with women needing to wear concealing cloaks outdoors, women who — not being allowed to work — have only pregnancy to look forward to. I found it rather interesting that it is this oppression which sparks the entire plot, because Angela is the one to urge Lucas into action; without her intervention, I doubt he would ever have planned to escape. While Lucas does show courage and resilience later on, I wonder whether he ever would have set down on this path without Angela’s urging.

The open-ended conclusion throws much of these issues and philosophical arguments into relief, and may leave you wondering what a miracle is, and whether the characters have found one.

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