Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > The Miracle Inspector

The Miracle Inspector by Helen  Smith
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Aug 02, 2012

really liked it
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‘Remember: you can’t make a difference when you’re dead.’

This novel is set in a dystopian near future: England has been partitioned and London is a walled and suspicious place. Theatres, libraries and schools have been closed and women are no longer allowed to work outside their homes. The older generation have mostly disappeared, as does anyone who speaks out about the government.

Lucas, who lives in London with his wife Angela, is the miracle inspector. It’s his job to investigate and report on claimed miracles. And, in an oppressive environment with few creative outlets many miracles are claimed. Angela is lonely and unhappy. They dream of escaping to Cornwall where, they believe, people are free to live as they choose.

A woman named Maureen requests a miracle inspection in respect of her daughter Christina. Lucas investigates, and finds himself taking Angela to meet Maureen and Christina. This is forbidden: women are only allowed to visit other women to whom they are related.

‘Men made the laws. Women set out to exploit the loopholes in them.’

This is an unsettling and bleak world: Angela dreams of escape, fuelled by reading letters dropped off at her home by Lucas’s uncle Jesmond – an outlawed poet. Lucas sees himself as largely invisible as he operates outside the law. Plans are made to leave London, but nothing goes according to plan. The wisdom of elders is needed, but missing. The consequences of choices are not anticipated, the outcomes are never comforting.

In fewer than 250 pages, Ms Smith creates an unsettling and incomplete world. Aspects are disconcertingly recognisable, others are alien. Many parts of the world have harsh restrictions on citizens – the cause is not always clear, even if the immediate effect is. And what of the long-term? Beyond the memories of the past?

I found this novel unsettling, disturbing, and worth reading.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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