With my last read being the intense thrill-ride of Harlan Coben, and amidst a demanding week of preparation for my final certificate-level exam for ACA, I decided to start a rather mellow book, gravitating towards the bright colours and pleasant florals of Catherine Isaac’s “The World at My Feet”, with the hope of being cheered up. And I certainly was!
The story parallels the lives of two women: Harriet, a foreign correspondent sent out to the bleakest areas of the wold, bravely reporting on the depths of depravity and inhumanity in the face of very real danger, and Ellie, a social media influencer for the gardening community with over 50k followers on Instagram as EnglishCountryGardenista.
Ellie, who the story predominantly follows, seemingly does indeed have the world at her feet: she lives in a cosy annexe with a beautiful garden, her loving parents live but steps away from her home, and she has acquired a large social media following, the royalties of which she is able to comfortably live off. Her Instagram portrays thriving plants in every array of brilliant greens, delicate flowers blooming across all spectrums of colours, pleasant blue skies and positive, engaging captions… but like most things, the exterior hides what actually goes on behind closed doors. Exactly that. Closed doors. Ellie has suffered with agoraphobia her entire adult life, often manageable, but at other times, completely incapacitating. Unable to venture beyond her front gate for two years, Ellie’s life is far from rosy, as her Instagram followers are led to believe. The story that progresses is one of immense self-discovery and improvement.
I had initially picked this book up with the anticipation of a chilled-out vibe, and although the pace was indeed slow in places, the plot was still captivating enough to leave me unable to put it down for long. Unexpectedly, there was an element of romance to the story alongside the themes of personal growth and development. I’m not usually one for romantic novels, finding them to be a little cringe and uncomfortable – almost like I’m intruding on something private, but the touch of romance here did not feel unnatural nor out-of-place, it felt necessary for Ellie’s growth, and was a lovely element to a charming story.
Aside from one particular moment where Ellie really frustrated me, making me physically shake the book as if it were going to bring her to her senses, I loved her character, desperately wanting for her to find happiness and peace, particularly after finding out about her elusive, heart-breaking past. Being brought so close to her deepest fears, the repeated nightmares that continue to haunt her dreams, the mental illness that handcuffs her entire life, and her every intricate thought, it’s impossible not to feel incredibly close to Ellie. The journey she takes throughout the book, along with the endearing ending that brought a tear to my eye, all had a profound impact of me, almost developing myself alongside Ellie, adjusting my own perspective.
I won’t divulge too much about Harriet, nor the relationship between Ellie and Harriet that the reader eventually comes to learn, but I will say that her character was also loveable, with a distinct and admirable selflessness and desire for justice, integrity and – above all – empathy and understanding.
As a footnote, there is also a dog… Who may or may not be my favourite character, but definitely brings me to my favourite little passage to share.
“At two and a half years old, Gerrie was completely untrainable, hence the fact that I still regularly have to defuse her homicidal tendencies towards the postman and have never succeeded in persuading her to stay off the sofa when her paws are muddy. Also, despite being surrounded by countryside, she is not allowed off the lead after previous, unfortunate examples of antisocial behaviour”.
Let that small segment be a fair indication of the clever wit of Catherine Isaac that flows throughout the book, quite often making my chuckle audibly, causing some uneasy glances from my boyfriend.
Would I recommend?
In short, yes. In places, if you’re used to fast-paced rollercoasters, you may have to stick with it a little through the slower parts – it does take a while for her true past to be fully revealed, but when it is, the storyline is both intriguing and absorbing, while still offering a relaxing read with beautiful scenery descriptions, and thoughtful perceptions of mental health and trauma.