Full disclosure, Alice is a good friend, so going into Rootbound I kept trying to discern if I enjoyed it because I knew Alice or if it was the story driving me or both. I was Rootbound to love it, right?
Like all great books, Rootbound’s story has played on in my head for the last couple of months since reading it. Within its pages you’ll find useful information about growing plants and detailed jaunts into interesting botanical history. Yet it’s the deeper themes flowing through that held me.
Rootbound presents big issues to the reader in open palms. It is a book about society’s oppressive embrace, loss and growing up: personally, emotionally and botanically. We’re all going through something and I could certainly relate to moments of finding oneself in ways you least expect.
The exploration of feminism and the life we Millennials find ourselves slotted, discussed with fierce nonchalance. I began willing all pre-Millennials (would that be Baby Boomers? I lose track) to read Rootbound. Millennials so often positioned as snowflakes, I’d like other generations to see the framework created for us to conveniently slot into. This good life with so many boundaries and restrictions, like an undercurrent of psychological, garden-less prison.
On a personal level, I found myself in this weird position of reading about Alice’s rawest moments from a year before we’d properly met. Laying on my sofa, reading through heartbreak with a tear in my eye wishing I could have been there, though I’m not sure my awkward hugs would have contributed anyway.
But there is strength, happiness (I laughed a lot!) and new forms of freedom. Exploring the streets of London, the city I know so well, it reawoke my love of the green spaces it contains. For some reason I had distanced myself from them over the last year, I suspect because I was being drawn to more natural escapes. In any case, I’ve since returned to exploring our city’s streets.
There is love too but in my typical awkwardness I’ll skirt around the issue here because I know the people and well, this is best read yourself. Of course, there are plants, lots of plants, dotted about the pages enough to suggest things to try and places I was left wanting to visit.
Rootbound vividly demonstrates the power of plants and nature to heal. It is a beautifully written biography – some chapters and moments I can still see like paintings in my mind – that captures the trend of a generation from the perspective of a young writer in South London who became a gardener. I expect it would make an excellent film.