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Book review: The Other Daughter by Caroline Bishop

Photo of the book The Other Daughter with cropped picture of a young woman holding a book. her head and shoulders and feet are outside the picture. A cityscape is behind her at the bottom. Text includes an endorsement from Rachel Hore - A fresh, original, passionate and page-turning story.

The Other Daughter is Caroline Bishop’s debut novel published earlier this year. I chanced upon it in the new books section of the local library. The strapline is You only get one life – but what if it isn’t the one you were meant to have?

The chapters alternate between 1976 and 2016 with two female main characters’ stories intertwining. It is set in the London and Switzerland. I was particularly interested as I have visited some of the places in Switzerland including Chateau de Chillon on the shore of Lake Geneva. It was easy to visualise the characters in these places.

The story highlights the late stage at which moves towards equality for women reached Switzerland. There are other disturbing social problems in the background. I enjoyed this book. The mystery is unravelled slowly in a way I found very satisfactory.

The endorsement from Rachel Hore – ‘A fresh, original, passionate and page-turning story’ is accurate.

Switzerland is a very beautiful country, which makes it more poignant to learn that it is not without its problems.

Another novel set in Switzerland with some disturbing content is Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier. I read that before I began reviewing most of the books I read and enjoyed it less than her other books.

The summer of 1976 was the very hot one, which is the setting for another book with some dark content: On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fizpatrick, which I reviewed here.

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Book review: The Trials of Isabella M Smugge

Introduction

I was invited to prepare this post as part of the blog tour for Ruth Leigh’s eagerly anticipated sequel to The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, which ended with a cliff-hanger. (My review of the Diary is here.) This post includes my review, the blurb, Ruth Leigh’s author bio and details of the blog tour. More information about these books about Isabella M Smugge, which are published by Instant Apostle, may be found on Ruth Leigh’s website. It is available from Waterstones and all the usual places books are sold. #ChooseBookshops

My review

Cover of The trials of Isabella M Smugge showing the silhouette of an expectant mother,

I received an advance reader copy (ARC) as a .pdf file on the understanding that I would post an honest review of The Trials of Isabella M Smugge. As I read it on my phone it took me longer than it would have taken to read a paperback copy. I finished it on the third day. Unusually I read one passage out loud to hubby – it was such a funny situation following some worrying news on Issy’s birthday.

The Trials of Isabella M Smugge is a continuation of her diary. Influenced by her new friends and having to work harder at home, she is aware that she is becoming a #betterperson. It is not a straightforward journey with a saintly Isabella emerging overnight. The events of a year or so include the arrival of two babies (hers and another in the extended family), school-gate interactions, dealing with difficult family members (and some pleasant ones), and other ongoing themes from the Diary. Do read that first if possible! However there are sufficient unobtrusive reminders about who everyone is and what has happened previously for The Trials to stand alone.

There is a generous scattering of hashtags as Isabella broadcasts her edited life on social media. Some hashtags are very long, #didntcomedownwiththelastshower, for example. I hope that in Book 3 she will have reached the point on her journey of transformation to a #BetterPerson, that she capitalises the words in her hashtags for the benefit of anyone using a screen-reader. (If her main platform is instagram, there may not be many visually impaired people, but some readers of the Kindle edition of the book might benefit from this.)

Ruth Leigh writes extremely well. She finds humour in absurd situations and deals with some serious topics. While the end of this second book does not leave the reader dangling in quite the same way as the first book, I am sure that Issy’s readers will be looking forward to more of her adventures in Book 3. I certainly am!

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Blurb

Blurb for the Trials of Isabella M Smugge

Life in the country isn’t going as Issy Smugge planned it. However, the woman Gorgeous Home magazine once called ‘Britain’s Most Relatable Mum Designer’ is nothing if not resilient!

With an unexpected baby on the way, a good-for-nothing husband and a mother who never seemed to care but now needs caring for, her hands are full. Her venal agent and creative socials guru keep work fizzing, but how will she cope with the mysterious village snitch and poisonous gossip columnist Lavinia Harcourt?

Discovering others’ problems can be far worse than her own, she confronts bizarre church sub-culture and braces herself to use the NHS, rethinking all she thought she wanted. Could true happiness be just a few hashtags away?

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Bio

Ruth Leigh

Author bio

Ruth Leigh is a freelance writer, novelist and book reviewer. Married with three children, she is a recovering over-achiever.

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The blog tour

The blog tour is running from 11th October 2021 to 23rd October. The publication date is 21st October and the official launch is on 22nd October.

Dates and contributors’ names are listed below. Twitter usernames are provided where applicable. Links to the blog posts will be added as the blog tour proceeds.

Monday 11th October Wendy H Jones @WendyHJones
Tuesday 12th October Joy Margetts @JAMarge
Wednesday 13th October SC Skillman @scskillman
Thursday 14th October Susan Sanderson @suesconsideredt
Friday 15th October Maressa Mortimer
Saturday 16th October Julia Wilson
Sunday 17th October Penelope Swithinbank @minstriesbydsgn
Monday 18th October Martin Horton @Hortonious101
Tuesday 19th October Sheila Johnson @journojohnson
Wednesday 20th October Claire Wong @ClaireRWong
Thursday 21st October Ruth Leigh @Ruthleighwrites
Friday 22nd October Liz Manning @lifemadestuff
Saturday 23rd October Claire Musters @CMusters

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Two more library books I read and enjoyed

This post includes reviews of Saving Missy by Beth Morrey and The Madness of Grief by The Reverend Richard Coles.

As reading is one of the ways I relax and I was feeling tired, I had a quiet weekend last month reading one book on Saturday and another on Sunday. I decided to start with the light read I had picked from a display of new books near the entrance to the library before reading the more serious book from the same area.

Saving Missy

Saving Missy: Everyone deserves a second chance by Beth Morrey is a novel about a 79 year-old woman, Millicent. Her life is lonely at the beginning of the story, but chance encounters lead to all sorts of changes. The story unfolds with a few surprises right to the end. I really enjoyed it and will be looking out for Beth Morrey’s next book due out in 2022. There are reading group questions.

Saving Missy is also available as an e-book and an audiobook.

The Madness of Grief

The Madness of Grief: A Memoir of Love and Loss by The Reverend Richard Coles is a much more serious book. The Reverend Richard Coles is a well-known Church of England vicar, whose loss of his partner, David, was something I knew about from Twitter. The book covers the end of David’s life and the time following it, with reminiscences about their life together. There were many things I was unaware of concerning practices around the burial of C of E priests. I am not sure that what was described is universally the case. There were touching scenes where people offered friendship and kindness to Richard. (I reviewed a book which Richard Coles co-authored here.) The Madness of Grief is also available as an ebook.

A book in the same genre, which I read a very long time ago, is A Grief Observed by CS Lewis, in which the author wrote about the loss of his wife, Joy. There is no standard way to process grief; everyone deals with it differently