The World at My Feet by Catherine Isaac. (2021).
**4 out of 5 stars**
1990. Harriet is a journalist and her job takes her to dangerous places where she asks questions. But when she is sent to Romania, to the state orphanages the world has just learnt about, she is forced to rethink her most important rule.
2018. Ellie is a gardener whose garden is her sanctuary. Even though she spends her days outdoors, she hasn’t gone beyond the gate in years. Now someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to overcome her fears.
Not only did I find this novel quite moving, it was also very informative for me. I learnt about the Romanian state orphanages which I didn’t really know anything about to be honest, I saw the ups and downs of Ellie dealing with her agoraphobia and I even learnt some gardening tips from Ellie. The descriptions of the orphanages were horrifying. It’s hard to imagine how many children would have suffered at the time as well as the long term psychological effects. The author has very cleverly balanced the darkness of this aspect of the story with the lightness of Ellie slowly healing and some lovely side characters; in particular Ellie’s sister and her new friend Jamie. Thankfully the story finishes on a happy and positive ending which I appreciated.
I would happily recommend this novel which is both distressing and heart-warming.