I have seen great things about the recently launched second book in this series (The Trials of Isabella M Smugge), and am very keen to read it. But it is just not right to read the sequel without first reading the original. And I am so glad I did – it is so enjoyable! #suchfun
In the first book, The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, the story launches straight in, immediately painting a picture of Isabella that is initially far from flattering. Clearly we are not meant to like her, in fact we are meant to be appalled by her attitudes and behaviours… but what else would you expect from a self-obsessed, image conscious, social media influencer and celebrity blogger, who thinks in hashtags and finds herself extracted from her comfortable metro-centric environment to fend for herself in a sleepy Suffolk village. #fishoutofwater #glitzclasheswithgrit
In fact, her character is a hoot. Completely out of touch with her new surroundings, oblivious of the real world around her, her family, her relationships and the circumstances that most people face in their day to day lives. She is though, a cleverly written character. At first we may want to dislike her or at best laugh at her, but the pathos kicks in as the reader begins to see glimpses of what might be going on beneath the surface, and this seemingly shallow character actually has much that is hidden and suppressed. #hiddenpast #cleverwriting
Throughout, there are gentle hints that there may be more to the character than the shallow exterior… something brought her to this place. She has a backstory. Isabella’s stiff upper lip, English public school induced attitude to covering up feelings, hides a disturbing history, and eventually we see a sensitive and hurt character who needs healing. #neverjudgeabookbyitscover
She engages in the process of learning how to make friends and discovers that real friendships are more fulfilling than virtual “likes”. As she begins to find her self-worth and security in her family and home, rather than the shallow and distant appreciation of strangers on social media, we see the layers of veneer being chipped away. In fact, this is a theme for many of the characters in the book. Everyone is hiding hurts, covering up a story. This is a helpful life lesson. Whatever walk of life we are from, we will find that everyone has a backstory… a history that makes them the person they are. None of us are perfect, and despite the façade we put up, all of us have damage, problems and brokenness that has moulded and shaped us. #everyoneisprecious
Christian readers will enjoy it, but also be reminded of how others see the church from the outside. There are humorous reminders of how those in church circles can present themselves as inaccessible and strange, using jargon and showing counter-intuitive behaviours that can be completely alien to newcomers. But that they can also present as being welcoming, reaching out, loving, supporting and persisting in friendships, which all means so much more than whether someone attends on a Sunday morning or not. These things are so healthy for us to remember. #loveyourneighbour
The Diary of Isabella M Smugge is funny and entertaining. It rattles along at a fast pace, never a dull moment and Ruth uses some great writing techniques to keep revealing deeper aspects of the characters and their stories. The twists and turns at the end leave us with some meaty cliff-hangers, neatly lining up book two. #cantwaittoreadit
The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, by Ruth Leigh, is available here.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, but was under no pressure to provide a favourable review.