“A rich, posh woman – Isabella. Yes, that was a good name and gave me the, “I” in “I Am Smug.” Middle name Mary. Last name Smug. “Isabella M Smug.” I pondered it. It didn’t look quite right. Suddenly, I typed two extra letters and suddenly, there she was. Isabella M Smugge, as in Bruges.“
That is how Ruth Leigh, the author, describes the start of Isabella M Smugge in her blog, Big Words and Made Up Stories. Ruth is a novelist, blogger and freelance writer, living in East Suffolk. The Diary of Isabella M Smugge is her first novel.
Isabella M Smugge is an Influencer on Instagram, who seems to have a perfect life: husband, three well-behaved kids, a Latvian au pair and a Polish cleaner. They have recently moved out into the country, and Isabella is trying to settle into village life. This is harder than she expected and I enjoyed reading about her efforts, feeling rather smug myself. Ruth is drawing on her own life in a village as well as her extensive life experience for this Diary, and it leads to a rich blend of actions and interactions.
The diary is funny, with wonderful descriptions, and I was laughing along when suddenly, very moving scenes are introduced. I felt bad laughing at Isabella, I felt like apologising to her…
The book is a brilliant combination of hilarious and heartbreaking, and Ruth has done a marvellous job in weaving the two together in just the right proportions. The characters around Isabella are great; each of them ought to have their own story written, in my view! You meet the usual people that come together around the village school, and poor Isabella stands out. As time goes on, she changes, and it’s wonderful to be part of that as a reader. It makes you think, who would I identify with in this village?
With all her money and help, as well as a Social Media agent, you would think Isabella would have a smooth, easy life, but you will be surprised by the struggles and difficulties she encounters (How to be a more ‘normal’ mum for example), and Ruth has brought out the message that money doesn’t bring happiness, but she has done so in an easy to read way.
Isabella’s encounters with church and God are hilarious and heartwarming at the same time. Again, Ruth has done this well, no cheap gospel here, or preachy passages, but authentic Christian living. I kept wondering if Isabella would start going to church (Will she ever?) and I enjoyed this underlying thread all through the book.
There are several huge twists in the book (struggling here to keep the spoilers out!), but a few had me gasping. The blurb says that the Latvian au pair’s behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre. It did. Very bizarre in fact, although I think I figured it all out before Isabella. Needless to say, the book kept me up way past my bedtime, haha, and then I simply stared at the last paragraph. Hint: The writer keeps you waiting for more…
It’s been a book that I have looked forward to for ages, and I was thrilled to have a signed copy. I highly recommend this book, as it will appeal to so many people. It is clean, fun, sad, hilarious, fast-paced, well written… It deals with so many issues in a funny but sensitive way. Some issues us mere mortals never have to worry about, like the national gossip columnist nursing a grudge against us. But still, I did feel for Isabella, as her picture-perfect life isn’t all that it’s supposed to be.
The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, by Ruth Leigh, will be available in bookshops as well as Amazon. The release date is February 19th. The Diary of Isabella M Smugge is published by Instant Apostle. You can find Ruth Leigh on her blog, Big Words and Made Up Stories.
I was given a free review copy of The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, but the views are my own, without any pressure from the author or publisher. This blog is my honest, personal opinion.