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Beth wants her marriage and husband back. Returned from war mentally damaged, she agrees to let the Machine heal him by purging his memory of the horrors of his experience in the war. Complicit in the treatment he now remains in a home for those left in a ‘vacant’ state following the treatment. Machines were scrapped following the controversy of the side effects after use. Beth has a plan and buys an Machine illegally to restore Vic her husband.

I like how Smythe has set this story on the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth because it brings a realism to the tale as I know both areas well.

This is a complex book written in simple layers using language that makes you think about its meaning. It questions the mind and memory, it brings a fear of the future and how in creating ‘healthy’ minds danger of what could be created instead.

At first I was eager to rush and read the story, but Beth draws you into her world slows you down and then I wanted to explore the tale more thoroughly.

The environment, society and personalities are depicted in such a plausible manner that I could almost feel the tiredness of such heat and the hopelessness of daily life.

Smythe offers lines that are simply perfect such as the school trip with reluctant teachers and pupils to:

“the Barrage Exhibition Centre, built in what used to be an art museum above a McDonald’s”

This is such a brilliant line.  (There is a real Museum of Communism which is next door to a casino and above a McDonald’s in Prague that I have visited!)

I can completely identify with Smythe’s vision of the future and his irony.

The final chapter of the book is a surprise and worth the read.

I would recommend this book as an excellent read, one which will leave questions in your mind after you put it down.

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