In her early twenties, Esther Rutter suffered an acute mental breakdown while teaching English in Japan. Sectioned and held in a Japanese psychiatric institution until she could be flown home under escort, her recovery only began when she came to live and work in the Lake District at Dove Cottage, the home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
Here, amid the beauty of the mountainous landscape and close to the extraordinary legacy of the Wordsworths, Esther began to heal. Like Dorothy and William before her, whose search for Dove Cottage was borne out of the dislocation they experienced during their childhood, Esther realised that she was looking for a place to feel at home, and most like herself. In the Wordsworths’ lives and writings, she discovered an approach to understanding herself as sophisticated as the psychoanalysis of Freud that followed a century later: a desire to ‘see into the life of things’ through personal reflection, and the belief that the experiences of ordinary people are intrinsically worthwhile and important. And in the community of fellow interns, colleagues, poets and villagers, she made lifelong bonds of friendship, and finally, love.
All Before Me is a moving and absorbing account of the struggle to know oneself on the journey into adulthood, intertwined with the stories of the Wordsworth siblings at Dove Cottage. In the beautiful hamlet of Town End, where a cultural epoch was borne that would forever shape the way we experience the world, Esther found the spirit of place to sustain and anchor her, and make possible all that lay before her.