This is the third book in Isabella M Smugge series and the storyline remains as engaging as ever.
Although on the surface Isabella is back to her normal self – self-obsessed, a touch arrogant, but also an innocence that makes her somehow loveable – there is so much more going on.
In amongst the pretence and façade of this social media influencer, in fact is a normal day to day life, with pressures and stresses from friends and family, work/life balance and relationships. The chaos of life in a busy household, peppered with school and church events, creates a host of humorous situations. But beneath the daily chaos that a busy household with four children creates, we see a loneliness emerging in Isabella, as she faces her challenges alone.
When you cut through the glitz you can see the struggles, as the storyline touches on issues that lurk around us all, like depression, family break ups and dealing with childhood trauma. Issy is still one of life’s carers, seeing a need, empathising and never saying no to supporting others. But is also a person who craves company and support for herself.
As usual the storyline is wrapped in plenty of humour, both laughing at and laughing with Issy, as well as the many other colourful individuals who cross her path in Suffolk village life … I love the storyline about the church organist that is subtle, quirky and feels like we are part of an ‘in joke’.
Issy’s character development continues, with her realising that the world of being a social media influencer may not be as fulfilling as she thought, and there may be something more ‘real’ and authentic out there.
This leads her to spending more time coming to terms with her upbringing and deeply hidden trauma, that has been covered in gloss from years of hiding behind a façade. It is interesting to see how this is supported and facilitated by her increasing involving her local church, and it is lovely to see them carrying out their pastoral role with individuals, as well as the community, in such a positive manner. There are glimpses too of Issy getting to grips with the concept of unconditional love, which has been sadly alien to her up until now.
It would be interesting now to go back to the Isabella Smugge we were introduced to in chapter one of the first book (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge) as I am sure we would see a much changed character. She has been on a healthy journey, where honesty and truth have broken through the veneer that was clouding her outlook, prompted by an emerging faith and facilitated by an eclectic mix of real people, all with their faults and issues, but who can muddle along together in a community, the sum of their individual parts equating to so much more. Issy has transitioned from craving her virtual “community” to being an active part of a real community.
This is such a fun book, hard to put down, sad to have finished, with great characters to love and to hate … everyone has a story.
Thank you to Ruth Leigh for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, by Ruth Leigh, and the other two books, are available from www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk, Halesworth Bookshop, Woodbridge Books and Dial Lane Books in Ipswich, as well as online.