The Miracle Inspector Synopsis
A darkly comic dystopian novel set in the near future. England has been partitioned and London is an oppressive place where poetry has been forced underground, theatres and schools are shut, and women are not allowed to work outside the home. A young couple, Lucas and Angela, try to escape from London – with disastrous consequences. (Amazon)
From the very first page of The Miracle Inspector, I was entranced by the originality of Helen Smith’s writing and impressed by the dystopian world she has created. I have read quite a few dystopian novels lately and this is one of the most fully formed and well constructed. Its plausibility, and hence scariness, stems from its extrapolation from concerns for the safety of children and women in our own society today.
Last stop before Lucas’s office was the Inspector of Women’s Travel. It seemed as if every woman in London claimed somehow to be related to every other woman. It was the job of poor old Fielding next door to Lucas to keep track of which family relationships between women had been conformed so that their visits to each other could be officially sanctioned. There was such a backlog that women criss-crossed all over London unofficially anyway, pending review of their cases. Men made the laws. Women set out to exploit the loopholes in them.
As with most seemingly well intended implementations of regulation in society, the rules imposed in this version of London’s future had unintended and in their extreme, very dark and perverse side effects. Themes explored include objectification and oppression of women and persecution without explanation.
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The interactions between the characters in The Miracle Inspector are gripping due to the power imbalances at play.
I particularly enjoyed Helen Smith’s use of a series of letters written in the past to help readers understand how the situation the protagonists find themselves in came to be. The artistic spirit and revolutionary zeal of the author of those letters, provided sharp contrast with the conformist behaviour of his younger, law abiding relations.
After the drum roll created by the high quality of the first two-thirds of this novel, the final chapters of The Miracle Inspector were a disappointment for me. As dramatic as the conclusion was, and as clever as the tie-backs to history introduced earlier in the novel were, their intended poignancy felt somewhat forced. It is the historical storyline in The Miracle Inspector introduced via letters that resonated most with me, and one I would like to have seen explored further.
It is clear that Helen Smith has enviable talents as an author, with some moments of brilliance to be found in The Miracle Inspector. Of the novel in isolation however – I think it is one whose potential was not fully realized.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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About the Author: Helen Smith is a member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain and The Crime Writers Association. She travelled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both – from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant – before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel, which was published by Gollancz (an imprint of the Hachette Group). She writes novels, children’s books, poetry, plays and screenplays, and was the recipient of an Arts Council of England Award.
– Checkout Helen Smith’s official website
* My receiving a copy of this title free from the author did not affect my ability to express my honest opinions in this book review.