Beneath The surface
The Diary Of Isabella M Smugge by Ruth Leigh is a delightful contemporary look at life through the eyes of Instagram blogger Isabella Smugge.
This is a charming book showing a carefully crafted life on the surface. But underneath things are not always so rosy. It is a warning to remember that perfect lives seen on social media are merely snapshots and we should not take them too seriously. This book is just as telling in what Isabella Smugge doesn’t say as in what she does.
The ‘perfect’ life is staged. It is about looking good from all angles. The perfect life may actually be the perfect lie. This instant generation too often make snap judgements based on what they see online. It is not always real life. The theme of appearances versus reality looms large.
As the book progresses the real Isabella Smugge emerges. We witness her edges soften and as her life expands we see a heart of gold.
Life in the country is far more open and honest in contrast to the false life Isabella Smugge lived in London.
This book is hilarious. It had me in stitches and laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Some of the situations though outrageous, were also recognisable. I think we have all met people whose thoughts on church were similar to Isabella Smugge’. “Call me old fashioned … Carol service at Christmas, Harvest in September and so on. These people seem gluttons for punishment.” (Her thoughts on all the weekly church activities). Her thoughts on looking after her own children made me chuckle (Isabella Smugge has an au pair) “I love my children… but the thought of being in their company 24/7 fills me with horror.”
There were moments when your heart just breaks. “Everyone I love leaves me.” Isabella Smugge’ attitude to life is understandable as she tries to protect herself. As the novel progresses we witness Isabella Smugge’ heart change as she becomes aware of what is really important – and it is not a posed life but a real life that emerges.
The Diary Of Isabella M Smugge is cleverly constructed and makes for addictive reading. I just could not put it down. Isabella Smugge is funny, kind and believable. I certainly hope there are more diaries to follow.
This is a refreshing read that I thoroughly enjoyed. More life is going on underneath than belies the snapshots. It is an utterly brilliant read.
I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.
Isabella Smugge is a full-time Instagram influencer, consummate show-off and endearingly self-unaware. With a palatial home, charming husband and three well-mannered children, she is living the Country Life dream. Newly arrived in Suffolk, Isabella is ready to bring a dash of London glamour to the school gate and gain a whole new set of followers – though getting past the instant coffee, terrible hair and own-brand sausage rolls may be a challenge! But as her Latvian au pair’s behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and a national gossip columnist nurses a grudge, Isabella finds herself in need of true friends and begins to wonder if her life really is as picture-perfect as she thought…
‘The crux of the book,’ comments Ruth, ‘is that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Isabella appears to have it all, to lead a charmed life, but underneath that glossy veneer, there is a damaged little girl who yearns to be loved.’ And when we meet her mother, we begin to understand why! As we are drawn ever further into Isabella’s cheerfully curated world, profound questions of friendship, parenting and the impact of social media are sharply, comically and sensitively addressed.
At a time when any number of glossy books from social media influencers and bloggers are filling the shelves – but many are struggling with the aggravated chaos of home-schooling and lockdown living – The Diary of Isabella M. Smugge offers the humorous escape and potent antidote to false perfection that we all need!
About the author: Ruth Leigh is a freelance writer and novelist, and is married with three children, one husband and assorted livestock. She blogs at Big Words and Made Up Stories and for More Than Writers and Authors Electric, and is a recovering over-achiever. She lives in Suffolk. For more information, visit www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk.