'Long before I knew I was sick, I knew I was breakable . . .'
After years of unexplained health problems, Polly Atkin's perception of her body was rendered fluid and disjointed. When she was finally diagnosed with two chronic conditions in her thirties, she began to piece together what had been happening to her – all the misdiagnoses, the fractures, the dislocations, the bone-crushing exhaustion, the not being believed.
Some of Us Just Fall combines memoir, pathography and nature writing to trace a fascinating journey through illness, a journey which led Polly to her current home in the Lake District, where outdoor swimming is purported to cure all, and where every day she turns to the natural world to help tame her illness. Polly delves into the history of her two genetic conditions, uncovering how these illnesses were managed (or not) in times gone by and exploring how best to plan for her own future.
From medical misogyny and gaslighting, to the illusion of 'the nature cure', this essential, beautiful and deeply personal book examines how we deal with bodies that diverge from the norm, and why this urgently needs to change.
This is not a book about getting better. This is a book about living better with illness.
Polly Atkin is a multi-award-winning writer, essayist and poet. She is the author of the poetry collections Basic Nest Architecture, which won a Northern Writers' Award, and Much With Body, which was longlisted for the Laurel Prize, as well as Recovering Dorothy, the first biography to focus on Dorothy Wordsworth's later life and illness. A strong advocate for the need for more disabled voices in the publishing industry, Polly co-founded the Open Mountain initiative at Kendal Mountain Festival, which seeks to centre voices that are currently at the margins of outdoor, mountain and nature writing. Born in Nottingham, Polly lives in Grasmere, Cumbria.
"Polly Atkin's Some of Us Just Fall unpicks the body of the wild, alongside the disabled wilderness of Atkin's own body. It gives us an experience that is both timely and timeless: of medical gaslighting, a body in pain, and the search for coping strategies out in the natural world. With a poet's insight and a deep understanding of place, Atkin pulls us again and again to witness the fractured, the breathless, the untameable bodies that permeate her book. I was immersed"
– Katie Hale, author of My Name Is Monster
"Some of Us Just Fall is a remarkable book that deepens our understanding of what it can mean to be human [...] an essential addition to writing on nature, it offers a much-needed counterpoint to ill-thinking notions of nature cure and, by seamlessly merging vivid personal experience with insights from literature and the natural world, raises the standard of nature writing. This is both radical manifesto and activism in book form"
– Sally Huband, author of Sea Bean
"Polly Atkin has conjured magic in this story of a life touched harshly by illness and misunderstanding, demonstrating a deep connection to the natural world and the voices of the past. Beyond the mesmeric writing on nature and place, Some of Us Just Fall acts as a stark reminder of the implications of misdiagnosis. It is a reminder to remain curious, keep asking questions and open our mind to the possibility that everything is not as it seems"
– Caro Giles, author of Twelve Moons
"In Some of Us Just Fall Polly Atkin, in prose of extraordinary strength and inventiveness, takes her readers on a creative and intellectual adventure across the particularities of embodiment, the insidiousness of the idea of cure, on the body as a site for nature writing, and on living in a place that generates meaning and sustenance in the most unexpected ways. The result is a gift of a book"
– Daisy Hay, author of Dinner with Joseph Johnson
"Polly Atkin writes with glorious and precise beauty. In Some of Us Just Fall we are asked to reimagine not just the stories we tell about the natural world, but about ourselves and how we live together. This is essential reading"
– Jessica J. Lee, author of Turning
"This book participates in a really exciting new direction for nature writing – one that accommodates fatigue and illness as well as strong, striding bodies"
– Noreen Masud, Hyphen
"I came away from this book with a firm understanding that mind, body and environment are three inseparable things"
– Joanne Limburg, author of Letters to My Weird Sisters
"A powerful message surrounded by beautiful immersive nature"
– Rachel Charlton-Dailey, journalist and founder of The Unwritten
"Some of Us Just Fall is defiant and dazzling! I was completely submerged in Atkin's life and its characters: the grey wagtail, her partner waiting in the shade of a tree, the nurses, the heron by the river. By sharing her relationship with water, Atkin has changed mine. Her prose is a beautiful gift"
– Freya Bromley, author of The Tidal Year
"Polly Atkin has written a survival story for the rest of us – a book of depth, meaning and resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity – a cathartic read"
– Allyson Shaw, author of Ashes and Stones
"Some of Us Just Fall is a breath of fresh air in the world of nature writing, a many-faceted mountain of experiential truths, a grounded patch of understanding to rest on. Her prose is both brutally honest and tender – she deftly brings the environment into the bodymind, and vice versa"
– Khairani Barokka, author of Ultimatum Orangutan
"Reading Some of Us Just Fall was for me a surprisingly visceral experience. I've never had such a bodily reaction to reading – as though my bones, muscles and nerve endings were being drawn into Polly's life and words, her very singular way of seeing the world. A fine, intricately crafted book that reveals itself slowly and thrillingly through a tracery of patterns, fractures and flows"
– Helen Jukes, author of A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings