I’m delighted to be bringing you my review of this third Isabella book, as I’ve read and loved the previous two by Ruth Leigh: The Diary of Isabella M Smugge (book 1) and The Trials of Isabella M Smugge (book 2).
Author Ruth Leigh
The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge was published by Instant Apostle on 29th October 2022. This is the best book Ruth Leigh has written so far: it is sharp, witty, fluent, and incredibly discerning about human psychology and relationships, and about the English class system together with all its attitudes.
Isabella herself, the privileged, snooty social media influencer, has developed enormously since she was first introduced to us: in this book I found myself totally on Isabella’s side as I watched her navigate her increasingly chaotic home situation. The reader feels Issy is real; we can believe in her and care about her; and we can see and feel we are in the lovely Georgian rectory where she strives to maintain a sense of control over her life.
Isabella is obsessed with control, perfection and success: we see clearly that this preoccupation has come from her mother, and from past tragic events. Isabella is undergoing profound inner changes; nevertheless – and this is very astute observation of human behaviour – she does still frequently switch back to her ‘everything must be perfect’ mode, when she becomes absorbed once again, for a brief period, in her old, false, artificial values. Then she re-emerges with a new family crisis, a new emotional challenge.
I loved watching how she grows through the frequent agonising dilemmas presented by Johnnie, her coercive, manipulating, philandering husband: and also, how she finally recognises the truth about his character. Highlights include Isabella’s application of ‘Tony the counsellor’s technique’ – very funny to read about and very effective. What does matter in the end is love, compassion and caring, and accepting people for who they are: and this is a lesson Johnnie still has to learn.
We watch Issy’s interactions with friends, family, and enemies/ ‘frenemies’ as they all play their part in her transformation. One of the friends I particularly like is Leanne, because she ‘says it like it is’. There are, too, a number of times in the story where I identify closely with Issy on a personal level, and on a couple of these occasions I realised I’d experienced this myself and had even dealt with it in the same way Issy does! – not of course, I hasten to add, because I am a privileged social influencer descended from aristocracy living in a beautiful Georgian rectory etc…
Read all the Isabella M Smugge books for acute psychological and social observation by the author, and lots of laughs and recognisable moments. Then delight in this one: the best Isabella book yet.
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