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!

Back to top

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?

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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

Back to top

2

World Book Day, blogging and lockdown

Today 4th March 2021 is World Book Day. I was alerted to this fact by two emails. A rather unlikely source of this information was the one from the National Trust. The National Trust website has some literary podcasts about famous British writers.

It was not at all surprising that Penguin Books also mentioned it. There are books available for just £1. If your local bookshop is able to supply books in the lockdown, please try to support it.

Blogging in lockdown has kept me motivated. I know some people have been finding it difficult to write or to be motivated in other ways. (I have to admit that some of my household tasks tend to be neglected in favour of reading and spending time online.)

It seems to me that reading blogs has also become more popular as people have more time indoors. I find blogging challenges help me to stay motivated and also provide communities of supportive bloggers. Cee Neuner, who has Midweek Madness Challenges (CMMC) for which I have been posting entries for on Sue’s words and pictures, has a list of blogging challenges for writing, music and photography.

On this blog I have been using Linda Kruschke’s paint chip poetry prompts. I am learning a lot about poetic forms this year. If you have enjoyed my occasional photos accompanying my poems, do pop across to Sue’s words and pictures to see more.

I am looking forward to the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge, which begins later this month with the theme reveal sign up from March 8-11. My theme reveal will appear on March 11.

Some good books have been published during lockdown. S.L. Russell, whose book The Healing Knife came out in the first lockdown, has written another; I hope to read The Thorn of Truth soon after its publication date of 21 May 2021 . Joan E. Histon’s book, The Senator’s Darkest Days is likely to have a sequel. Tracy Williamson and Marilyn Baker told their story in A Beautiful Tapestry. Ruth Leigh’s debut novel, the diary of Isabella M.Smugge is being followed up with other books about this star of Instagram. Another debut novelist, Joy Margetts is going to be featured here on Sue’s Trifles in two weeks time. Her historical novel, The Healing, is already available from her website and will be in bookshops from 19 March. A new children’s book, My diary, is being launched today by Emily Owen.

Which books published in 2020 and 2021 have you read and enjoyed?

3

Two more books I read in January 2021

The two novels I am reviewing here, Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell and the diary of Isabella M Smugge by Ruth Leigh, are opposites in many ways. Both are physical books. One is an old historical novel and the other a pre-publication copy of a contemporary novel.

A bookmark and two booksPeter Abelard was a book I inherited. I had not read it before. In fact, I vaguely remember choosing it off the shelf as a teenager and being told, ‘You don’t want to read that. Try this one instead.’ The replacement book may have been The Tiger in the Smoke reviewed here.

There is no character list for Peter Abelard, although I suspect that had it been published now rather than in 1933 (the edition I read was reprinted in 1950) such a list might well have been provided. The reader is rather thrown into the story at the deep end. It is set in France in the 12th century. There are some very vivid descriptions, while other things are only hinted at. The Christian beliefs of the time are very important in the story. There are quotations from earlier scholars including Augustine and Origen. The book is well-researched. There are phrases from familiar passages in the Bible, notably Psalm 139. Beliefs about morality at that time were very different from those of the present day. It is not a light read due to the language and the scholarly content, which includes quotes in old French and Latin. These are mostly translated afterwards, but the reader has to recognise or infer this. I found it very interesting.

I first met Isabella M Smugge (pronounced like Bruges) in a blog post in 2020. The novel in which she is the main character is being published by Instant Apostle later this month. (February 2021).

I received a copy through the post from the author, Ruth Leigh. I read it almost immediately, finishing it the day after I received it. It made me laugh, but there are serious issues addressed amidst the humour. The hashtags were fun, especially the oxymoron #planningforspontaneity. It ended with a lot of loose ends. I’ll have to be patient waiting for the sequel to this debut novel.

Readers, who enjoy books by Anna Bell, Sophie Kinsella and/or Stephanie Butland will probably like the diary of Isabella M Smugge.

Ruth Leigh has written a blog post about how she came to write a novel.

My other book reviews may be found here and here.