Ill Feelings

Ill Feelings blends memoir, medical history, biography and literary non-fiction to uncover untold case histories of medically unexplained and invisible illness. In 1995 Alice’s mother collapsed with pneumonia. Her lungs were infected, which caused flu-like symptoms: fatigue, headache, chest pain, fever. 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. Since this time, neither of them have been well, even if, at times, they believed they were well-enough.

Structured around the narrative of the author and their mother’s own ill feelings, Alice Hattrick’s collective biography of illness branches out into the records of ill health 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, Ruskin’s lost love Rose la Touche, and the artist Louise Bourgeois. Ill Feelings is a moving and defiant debut from a bold new voice in narrative non-fiction which inhabits a similar space to Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams and Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self, but has a texture and voice – a generative, transcendent rage – of its own.

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