Ill Feelings

Alice Hattrick

French paperback with flaps, 360 pages
Published 25 August 2021

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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

Ill Feelings offers spellbinding reality unlike anything I have ever read. It conquers the sense of grief that we have to learn to live with; this deep guttural fear in humanity is addressed compassionately.’
Billie Ingram Sofokleous, Buzz Magazine

‘Hattrick’s ability to reflect life with ME in form and language is complex and brilliant. The structure of Ill Feelings appears initially as haphazard, perhaps, but the more you read, the more it clarifies: this is not a book of simple narrative, of gradual progression. The chapters shift around in both tone and environment. While the spine of the story is Alice’s – their various treatments ranging from the comforting to the absurd, and their relationship with their mother – there are many branches and loops throughout the book…. [W]hile Hattrick does not use a normative plot structure, while they do not stick to one manifestation, there is a clear message: when we define another as ‘disabled’, we are discounting their life and their applicability to what we call progress…. Capitalism is closing the borders of language around us, and in so doing, is narrowing the human experience down to a sharp, ableist point.’
Connor Harrison, Review 31

‘Happily, Hattrick, in addition to being a gifted writer, is a fierce advocate for their own instinctive understanding of their body, with one of Ill Feelings’ most radical qualities being its unabashed anger.’
— Philippa Snow, Brixton Review of Books

Ill Feelings belongs on the shelf with Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, Ben Watts’ Patient, Ann Boyer’s The Undying, and Jenn Ashworth’s Notes Made While Falling, because, quite simply, it’s that good.’
Steven Long, The Crack Magazine

‘Here Hattrick … presents a swirling personal narrative including reflections on their own chronic illness, meditations on their relationship with their mother, and comments on the current state of medical research along with investigations into the lives of historical ill women.’
Alexander Wells, The Berliner

Ill Feelings does not end desirably – but it does offer the radical acceptance of un-recovery, and happily assures that that is not the same as accepting bad care or bad science or bad politics.’
Flo Goodliffe, Spam Zine

‘[T]hough Hattrick may eschew normative structure in illness narratives, they bring about a beautiful ending in Ill Feelings…. Hattrick’s imbrication of memoir, essay, and literature review … shows that cruelty and didactic therapies are not a response to medicine’s inability to heal. The fluidity they bring to the writing of illness narrative demonstrates there are ways of knowing that do not necessitate ostracising those who are sick.’
Peter Endicott, The Polyphony

‘Alice Hattrick bears fascinating witness to the arduous burden of sickness and chronic infirmity…. [A] deeply personal, thoroughly researched, philosophical memoir.’
Kathleen Gerrard, Shelf Awareness

Alice Hattrick’s criticism and interviews have appeared in publications such as frieze magazine, ArtReview and The White Review. Alice’s work has most recently been included in Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art: HEALTH (ed. Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz, 2020) and Mine Searching Yours (Forma, 2020). They are the co-producer of Access Docs for Artists, a resource for disabled and/or chronically ill artists, curators and writers, made in collaboration with artists Leah Clements and Lizzy Rose. In 2016, they were shortlisted for the Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize. Ill Feelings is their first book.