Book Review: The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith
October 2, 2012 22 Comments
As you might know, I love dystopian fiction. I even made a post about it, with adult dystopia novels (as opposed to YA dystopia, which is much better known to a lot of people). When it comes to dystopia, I prefer a situation that is in the near future, and not too far removed from our current situation – that usually makes it even more scary!
The Miracle Inspector: What it is about
In The Miracle Inspector, I guess we are about 50 years in the future, in London, England. Women can’t work outside the home and cannot go anywhere except to the shops and to family (there is an official at the Ministry to check out people’s family relationships to make sure women are really visiting relations and not strangers or friends).
Lucas has a good job at the Ministry as a miracle inspector. When a miracle is being reported, he goes to check it out. So far, no genuine miracles have been found, although the public do their best to make up their own miracles (the face of the Virgin Mary in a flan, etc.).
Lucas is a well-off man, with his own car, a rarity in London, and a nice house. His wife is Angela, a clever woman, but stuck to a boring life at their home. The couple make plans to escape to Cornwall, where they would be free, but they need passes to get there. Their attempt to escape London lead to serious consequences for Lucas and Angela.
The Miracle Inspector: What I thought
This book reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) to start with, because of the restrictions to women. These were society’s restrictions, and within their marriage, Lucas didn’t feel it was right that a woman like Angela had to spend all her time at home. On the other hand, he was a product of his society, so I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the way he thought about their situation.
Later on, the book had some elements of The Carhullan Army (Sarah Hall). But while there were similarities with that book and with The Handmaid’s Tale, The Miracle Inspector was definitely a unique book in its own right.
I loved how the society’s rules were made up by the people themselves. At some point, people were allowed to make the laws and some very odd regulations followed. Many of the rules were formed based on three (perceived) threats: everyone was a potential terrorist, rapist, or paedophile. Because of terrorists, people could not freely travel; because of rapists, women should not leave the house; and because of paedophiles, hardly any schooling existed any more. In London, there was a rumour that in Spain, pre-school children were often looked after by their grandparents during the day (when the Spanish women worked). But this was considered very unlikely, as you could hardly trust even the children’s own fathers with their kids, let alone the grandparents!
So, there were a lot of funny things in this book, but the plot is more serious. Angela discovers that life on the other side of the (London) fence isn’t so great everywhere either, and at some point she wishes she was safely back at home. The book’s ending is somewhat open, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to think what would happen next.
The world Angela and Lucas were living in seemed well thought-out, and I would have loved to know more about Cornwall, the place (besides Australia) that every Londoner wanted to escape to.
The book was well-written and a pleasure to read. If this was a children’s book, there would definitely be a sequel. Even so, I secretly hope there will be one, or a least another book based on the same dystopian world.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 248
First published: 2010 (Tyger Books, UK)
I got this book: for review from the author
Genre: science fiction, dystopia
Have you read this book?
Did you enjoy it?