The World at my Feet by Catherine Isaac
The World at my Feet, my third novel writing as Catherine Isaac, is a story about two women and two very different worlds.
Ellie is a gardener. Her garden in the idyllic English countryside is not just her pride and joy, it’s also her sanctuary. Because, although she spends most of her days outdoors, she has been afraid to set foot beyond her gate for nearly two years. Now, someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to take those first steps outside home.
Harriet, meanwhile, seems to be fearless. A foreign correspondent for a broadsheet newspaper, we meet her in the late 1980s, when she’s passionate about her job and determined to make a difference. But when she is sent to Romania to cover the state orphanages making headlines across the globe, she is forced to question her most important rule as a journalist.
The idea for the novel came to me during a conversation I had with a remarkable man called Mark Cook, a retired army officer who had set up a charity called ‘Hope and Homes for Children’ with his wife Caroline from their kitchen table in Wiltshire. The charity’s aim is to eliminate the institutional care of children worldwide and instead enable youngsters to have what we all need when growing up: the love of a family.
I was speaking to him as part of my research for a completely different idea – one that never made the final cut – and it was then that we got talking about Romania, where Hope and Homes has been working for many years, helping to reform the child protection system.
I’d remembered those headlines when the state orphanages were first uncovered. I’d been a teenager in Liverpool at the time and, when the images of images of cold, hungry babies and children who had suffered the most dreadful neglect appeared on television, I would remember them afterwards for a very long time.
The big questions I had for Mark Cook were: what had happened to those children in the intervening years? And what is the situation like in the country today?
It was the answer to these and many more questions that sparked the idea for The World at My Feet, which sweeps between a present-day setting in an English country garden and the Romania of thirty years ago.
The garden setting that is Ellie’s obsession was something that also fascinated me. I recently moved into a very old, crumbling house that I’m in the process of renovating and it has a stunning Victorian garden, which has clearly been designed by someone who knew a lot about planting; there is colour and vibrancy at all times of year.
I don’t mind admitting that while I love being out there, I knew very little about horticulture myself before I started researching the book. Even now, my fingers still aren’t as green as Ellie’s – and if I’m honest I prefer writing about gardens than tending to them – but I definitely know more than I used to. And, having previously written about the most picturesque parts of Italy and France, it was a joy to give the same treatment to a location far closer to home.
The World at my Feet is a novel with many themes. Friendship, love, motherhood . . . and plants.
But’s also a story about how we as humans go about confronting our fears – and why sometimes we have to peel back the layers of our own history to discover who we really are.
Book bloggers can request to read and review on NetGalley here.
‘The World at My Feet is such a moving, thought provoking and beautifully written book and I have loved being part of Ellie’s journey of self discovery’ ***** Roxy
‘I really enjoyed this. I loved how the stories intertwined. I got so invested and could not put it down. Loved it’ **** Lisa C
‘A beautiful, thought-provoking and emotional novel. I was completely captivated and read it in two sittings.’ ***** Cari
‘A truly wonderful, emotive beautifully written book that will stay with me for a long time.’ ***** Sally T
‘A wonderful, emotional and beautiful book. It will stay with me for a long time.’ ***** Sue S
‘Emotional and poignant with such a brilliant cast of characters. This is a book that I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.’ Kirsty