Ill Feelings

Alice Hattrick


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Fitzcarraldo Editions
25 August 2021
ISBN: 9781913097646
360 pages

From the publisher

In 1995 Alice’s mother collapsed with pneumonia. She never fully recovered and was eventually diagnosed with ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Then Alice got ill. Their symptoms mirrored their mother’s and appeared to have no physical cause; they received the same diagnosis a few years later. Ill Feelings blends memoir, medical history, biography and literary non-fiction to uncover both of their case histories, and branches out into the records of ill health that women have written about in diaries and letters. Their cast of characters includes Virginia Woolf and Alice James, the poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Emily Dickinson, John Ruskin’s lost love Rose la Touche, the artist Louise Bourgeois and the nurse Florence Nightingale. Suffused with a generative, transcendent rage, Alice Hattrick’s genre-bending debut is a moving and defiant exploration of life with a medically unexplained illness.

Ill Feelings is a deeply personal and deeply political reckoning with the nature of illness, inheritance, time, silence, bodies and invisibility. Alice Hattrick offers both a radical redefinition of the dominant narratives surrounding health and pain, and the knowledge we need in order to name, understand and resist them. Hattrick has found a voice and form which open up new and exciting possibilities for writing the self and making sense of the collective past: I read this remarkable book with outrage, fascination and immense admiration.’
— Francesca Wade, author of Square Haunting

‘I love the quality of attentiveness that Alice Hattrick brings to their poised and pointillistic exploration of the mysterious aetiologies and affects of chronic fatigue. They excel in listening out for echoes and whispers, their narrative of illness wriggling into uncomfortable places that medicine dismisses or ignores. Their book makes you pause to think – and rethink – page by page.’
— Marina Benjamin, author of Insomnia

Ill Feelings defies neat conclusions as well as easy categorization of the book itself, so that attempting to describe it here seems like misdiagnosis, and to try and name the paradox at its heart seems like a betrayal of its rewards. But the thrill of Alice Hattrick’s writing stems from its struggle to be free of its constraints, communicating with unspooling fury the mutability of lived experience rather than presuming to define it. In doing so, they remind us that the undefined – our own ill feelings – reveals not weakness so much as our inherent capacity for resistance.’
— Olivia Sudjic, author of Exposure

‘I read Ill Feelings with a sense of wonder at the courage required not just to live with a medically unexplained illness, but to write about it with such descriptive clarity and probing intelligence. Alice Hattrick’s book is a powerful cure for ignorance or indifference about a complex form of suffering.’
— Edmund Gordon, author of The Invention of Angela Carter

Ill Feelings is a necessary, urgent book that I feel I have been waiting my whole life to read. A beautiful combination of memoir, reportage and razor-sharp analysis, it made me think very deeply and critically and feel powerfully understood all at once – a testament to what truly accomplished non-fiction writers can achieve. This book makes me excited for the future of literary non-fiction writing and it’s power to change the world and how we see it.’
— Lucia Osborne-Crowley, author of My Body Keeps Your Secret

‘“Poetry is not the same to the ill, the clouds look different, and so too does the rest of nature.” Alice Hattrick brilliantly geographies sick time and ill feelings. They chronicle not just how pain is located in the body but how it stretches outside of itself, across time and generations, through society and literature. The weight or unweight that is given to it; how disabled voices are heard (or not heard); the toxic way society views unrecovery. This book, and others like it, are always needed, but this feels especially needed right now, when 60 per cent of those who have died of Covid-19 in England have been disabled, and online disability hate crime has risen 46 per cent.’
— Jen Campbell, author of The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night