“From the start of my glittering career, I’ve focused on appearing authentic and relatable. Now, after probably the most difficult and painful year of my life, I want to be authentic and relatable.”
The Trials of Isabella M Smugge is the long-awaited sequel to The Diary of Isabella M Smugge (I know, it’s not been that long, to me it just felt long, for I wanted it the day after I finished reading The Diary of Isabella M Smugge!). The first book was a hoot, and I laughed and cringed all the way through. (Here is my review of Book 1.) I have been looking forward to book two all this time, and now it’s here! It’ll be released soon, so the other day, I started reading a chapter in between other things. And I was hooked!
Ruth Leigh, the author, has done a fabulous job again with this book. Isabella’s difficulties are far from over, as you can imagine from the title, but Isabella is nothing if not resilient. I loved how she keeps rising to the top every time, helped by wonderful, faithful friends. I love Issy’s friends, and almost went looking for Issy Says books! I could do with some of her tips…
The Trials of Isabella M Smugge takes off soon after the end of the first book, making a lovely smooth link. Although I had been desperate to see my question from book one answered, I found I had to wait for some time, causing me to make tutting noises at Ruth Leigh for keeping us in the dark for so long! When I got the answer, all was forgiven though.
Isabella is such a wonderful character in this book, so much more relatable and doing her best to be authentic. The way she grows in strength, kindness and faith is lovely. I especially enjoyed the chapters where she spends time with her children, who have grown as well. Johnnie, the husband, went down in my estimation from eye-rolling level annoying to downright awful. The other characters from book one were there too, I love that! Mimi is dreadful as ever and the way her botox treatment worked out had me in stitches!
Childbirth was a whole new chapter for poor Issy, and I felt for her as well as when the baby was born and she was getting adjusted to her new normal. Issy sounds so busy and although there were many new characters and various events, the book still feels like a sweet, light read, although it deals with so many incredible topics like forgiveness, kindness, friendship and motherhood. Then there is the missionary couple, based on real people, Alan and Jane Hutt, who set up the Beehive Foundation in Kenya, working with very young mothers. I loved how Ruth managed to weave this foundation into her story, like a cameo appearance.
I couldn’t put it down, as I felt drawn into the lives of all these wonderful people who felt so genuine. Ruth has managed to do it again, and left me counting the days till the next book comes out!
The Trials of Isabella M Smugge deals with childhood trauma, divorce, grief and bitterness in a sensitive way and it’s beautiful the way Ruth has shown us in a fun, uplifting story what it looks like. It’s why I love novels, as it makes it clearer what it means to be kind or forgive somebody. It shows the damage done by a cheating husband or a bitter wife. Whilst I felt Book 1 was a hilarious, thrilling read, this one feels more mellow, with a deeper, wiser Isabella, touching my heart in many different ways. It’s the book that makes you sigh with disappointment when you get to the end and you realise you have no more pages left to read. It’s the kind of book that stays in your head and heart for many days to come, just remembering it all, thinking of snippets of conversation, catching myself thinking, “I wonder what Issy would say if she saw my bashed together flapjacks.”
I received a copy of The Trials of Isabella M Smugge from Ruth Leigh as part of her fabulous Book Tour but was under no pressure or obligation to give a favourable review.