I went to Battersea Park Road with a bit of apprehension, not sure if I would find the place, and where it would be in the maze of London. Isabel’s house really is on Battersea Park Road, but tucked away in a green garden which makes it feel miles away.
After settling down with a cup of tea, we start talking about her books, since the Italian version of her fourth book, The Battersea Park Road Park To Paradise, has just published.
She tells me that her books are “against the tide” because they are non fiction, but this is what she wants to write about: fiction has convenient coincidences, while she writes about reality. Her first book, The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment, is about happiness. In it she explores many approaches to looking inwards, retreats, tai-chi, tantric sexuality, rebirthing, past life exploration, colonic irrigation (!) an anger release workshop, 'angel' work - basically a number of courses that claim to make us happier, more fulfilled people. Her aim is to ask herself “what can I learn from this?" describe her experiences to the reader and make them laugh. Not at the courses but at Isabel.
When I comment that to do this she has an incredibly open mind, as most people wouldn’t even approach some of these experiences, she says “you can’t have a mind so open that your brain falls out”, which I think is very good advice – she says she had a picture of a man walking on a tightrope while she was writing the book, a careful balance between being sceptical and being open.
The book has been an incredible success, but critics accused her of navel-gazing, so in the following book (For Tibet, With Love) she started to look outwards: it was the time of the war on terror, and she believes that the best course of action is instead to reward the good, rather than punish the bad. So, guided by the serenity prayer (Grant me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference) she starts exploring the Tibetan question, working with various charities, culminating in a jump from Nelson’s column (by a professional stuntman, but still highly dangerous), and a meeting with the Dalai Lama. I ask her to tell me more about this meeting, and in her usual humorous style she tells me how emotional the meeting was how overawed she has felt to meet this remarkable man of peace.
Her following book set out to try and understand why she had so many single women friends and knew no men that she could introduce them to. A state that she says is international. So she started exploring for her third book, Men!. She says that if you wanted to throw a party with 100 interesting, successful and single women, it would take about three days to find them, while it is almost impossible to find 3 interesting, single men who are not addicted to anything….she explores why this is the case, and why women and men see things in a different way. She doesn’t let any secret out though, so you'll have to read the book to find out!
In her latest book, The Battersea Park Road to Paradise which she is clearly stating is non fiction, she does a similar work to her first, The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment, but she chooses only five activities and explores them more in depth. The very description of them made me feel uncomfortable: Vipassana meditation (10 hours a day for 10 days, no speaking and no eye contact), Anthony Robbins (who she describes by starting to jump up and down and making me feel tired just by looking at her), then Feng Shui (where the 3 independent experts she calls in don’t agree on anything, and someone tells her she is missing a corner of her house therefore she had problems with her father), Mooji, the Advaita teacher (a guru who makes her think about who the “self” really is, and about the very nature of consciousness), and finally taking ayahuasca in the Amazon, a very powerful drug taken under the supervision of a local shaman.
Again, she uses her funny style to describe these experiences with the aim of telling us, the readers, what she got out of these experiences, with some inspiration for us to explore any path fitting for each of us, and find our own way to enlightenment (or paradise). 'Above all...' she says, 'I love to make my readers laugh.'