Book: 429 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (18th March 2021)
The dazzling new novel from Richard & Judy book club author Catherine Isaac, The World at my Feet is a story about the transforming power of love, as one woman journeys to uncover the past and reshape her future.
The secrets that bind us can also tear us apart…
1990. Harriet is a journalist. Her job takes her to dangerous places, where she asks questions and tries to make a difference. But when she is sent to Romania, to the state orphanages the world is only just learning about, she is forced to rethink her most important rule.
2018. Ellie is a gardener. Her garden is her sanctuary, her pride and joy. But, though she spends long days outdoors, she hasn’t set foot beyond her gate for far too long. Now someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to overcome her fears.
From post-revolution Romania to the idyllic English countryside, The World at My Feet is the story of two women, two worlds, and a journey of self-discovery that spans a lifetime.
Ellie Heathcote is a gardener, instagrammer (influencer) and daughter to an award winning war correspondent. She has it all. Apart from her freedom – Ellie is agoraphobic and cant set foot outside of her garden gate.
I really loved this book and found myself hooked from the first chapter. The story jumps between Ellie and her mother, Harriet, who is a well known war correspondent (the character was inspired by Kate Adie), with Ellie’s story often being led by her instagram posts as she engages with her 50k+ followers. We learn that Ellie suffers from terrible nightmares and is haunted by the image of a little girl at the side of her bed who then jumps out of the window. Ellie has been to see a therapist but stopped going 2 years ago after she struggled to talk about her past.
Harriet’s story tells of her times in war torn countries, how she comes to meet her husband (Colin) and the story of their marriage, her pregnancy and them becoming parents. Ellie’s parents are a lovely, supportive couple and they don’t ever push Ellie to just “man up and get over it” which I really liked. They respect their daughter’s mental health issues and want to help her in any way they can – something that would have been easy to write differently for people of their generation.
Catherine writes Ellie’s panic attacks brilliantly. You really feel the pain that Ellie is going through. As someone who used to suffer panic attacks in my teens, they felt very real. I also saw a therapist who told my mum is was just teenage hormones (in my case, it really was). Despite her circumstances, Ellie forms relationships with others and we see her slowly growing in strength and confidence – will she overcome her biggest fear?
I also loved how Catherine writes about Harriet’s visit to the Romanian orphanages of the 1990s – I vaguely remember the news at the time and I have seen the harrowing images of emaciated children, chained to bed, living in filth and squalor. The book made me want to look into this more and educate myself about what happened and what is happening now.
I’ve mentioned this before but so often the ‘women’s fiction’ genre is brushed off as ‘easy reading’ or ‘fluffy’, ‘light hearted’ etc but this book is far from that. I think it would be an insult to call this ‘just another romance book’ or an ‘easy beach read’ when it covers to many deep topics. It was a book I devoured in a day but that doesn’t make it an easy read – it makes it unputdownable.
This is probably one of the best books I’ve read by Catherine Isaac (formerly writing as Jane Costello) and must have taken some researching – the mental health aspect, the historical news snippets, the Romanian orphanages, instagram/influencers etc. I thoroughly recommend it – I cried throughout and there was even a moment where I gasped out loud with surprise! (No spoilers though)
To buy this book, please click one of the links below:
To buy from Amazon
To buy from Gullivers Books (my local independent book shop)
Or to order from an independent bookshop, please click here to go to Bookshop.org