This story is set in London in the near future; it’s a London that in some ways feels very familiar, but in some ways is scarily different from the London of today. Counties have been partitioned off, and Londoners are effectively trapped in their city. To escape, they have to literally go underground, and risk their lives. Women are not allowed to work – indeed, are not even allowed outside their house unless they are covered with a veil. The fear of paedophilia is so immense that men are frightened of spending time with any child who is not their own, and even then, only with their wife present. Theatre and books are banned, and any kind of culture is considered anarchic.
Living in the middle of all this are young couple Lucas and Angela. Lucas works for the sinister Ministry, as a Miracle Inspector – his days are spent visiting people who claim to have discovered a genuine miracle, but so far every ‘miracle’ has been a fraud, or the wishful thinking of the claimant. Lucas and Angela make plans to leave London, but it turns out to be much harder than anyone could imagine.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Dystopia is one of my favourite genres, and fans of such books as Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid’s Tale, would almost certainly enjoy this novel. I found it scarily believable; a world that was all too easy to imagine, where fear of paedophilia and terrorism has curtailed people’s freedom to an extreme level.
It is not spoilerish to say that at one part, Angela finds herself outside London, as a refugee, and the story drew parallels with how asylum seekers are treated in the real world, with mistrust and fear.
The writing is very ‘clean’ – no words are wasted here – and it flows beautifully. The different subplots tie together nicely and despite the subject, there is genuine humour here as well.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed this book, and will be seeking out Helen Smith’s other books. Definitely recommended, especially to fans of dystopian fiction.
(I would like to thank the author, who sent me this book in exchange for an honest review. )