REVIEWED BY KAREN BYROM
Heroine Ellie must nurture herself as she nurtures the flowers in her garden
Ellie Heathcote’s pride and joy is her garden. She shares it with her thousands of Instagram followers, carefully curating a perfect life of sunshine and flowers as she posts pictures of herself hard at work, and the gorgeous results of her labours.
But what her devoted fans don’t know is that her garden is also her prison. For Ellie suffers severe agoraphobia and has left behind her life in London for the lonely retreat of an annexe in the grounds of her parent’s home.
She refuses to pass the garden gate into the big bad world beyond – even to see her counsellor.
She longs for love and normality – and thinks she might have found the former when she meets @Firefly_Guy, poster of inspirational quotes and impossible yoga poses. At first he’s happy to visit her at home – but how long can she keep secret from him the fact that she’s afraid to venture past her garden gate?
Catherine Isaac reads an extract of The World At My Feet…
Ellie’s family offer loving support, but the only other friend she now has is delivery driver Jamie – who keeps her supplied with plants, garden equipment and her stash of Marlborough Lights. He knows the challenges she faces, and always has time to lend a sympathetic ear, along with a shoulder to cry on.
But Ellie can’t keep crying forever.
Somehow she must find the strength to face the traumas of an early childhood very different to the quintessential country life she now lives.
This was a very powerful and emotional story. At first, it seems that Ellie has always been a blessed child, with a strong secure family.
But hints of a different life emerge when the narrative goes back in time 20 years and switches to Harriet, a young war reporter, who is not afraid to go out and face the world whether she’s reporting from the dangerous hotspots of Afghanistan or the heart-breaking grounds of a 1990s Romanian orphanage.
As it becomes clear how she and Ellie are linked, the reasons for Ellie’s mental health problems crystallise.
This makes already likeable, warm and funny Ellie an even more empathetic character – a woman who truly deserves happiness.
But will she find it with Guy?
The supporting characters in this story are all strong, vibrant and add extra layers to the narrative. There’s Lucy, Ellie’s happy-go-lucky sister; Guy, in all his manly glory; sweet, sympathetic Jamie; and, of course, Oscar, the five-year-old son of the Heathcotes’ cleaner, who “helps out” Ellie in the garden, and provides much of the humour in the story.
With a warm, pacy narrative – which intersperses Ellie’s story with her Instagram posts and switches between her life and Harriet’s, The World At My Feet is a wonderful story of self-discovery and a coming to terms with the hand life deals, knowing that there is always hope for the future.
The World At My Feet is published by Simon & Schuster, RRP, £8.99
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