Some of Us Just Fall: On Nature and Not Getting Better

Polly Atkin

"Beneath the mix of memoir, history, nature writing, and poetry hums a valuable lesson about illnesses and their cures, places and their boundaries, time and its trajectory, and, maybe most significantly, the relationship between nature and health.... An empowered and patient story...

“If I could, I would live in water. To be a body in water, not a body on land. A body that can’t fall over.”

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, and on top of it all, the not being believed by the very people who were meant to listen: friends, family, and medical professionals alike.

Some of Us Just Fall delves into shimmering waters to trace a journey through illness– a journey which led Polly Atkin to her cottage in England’s Lake District where every day she turns to the lakes and land that inspire poets old and new– from Dorothy and William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter to W.H. Auden– to help manage, and purportedly cure, her chronic illness. 

A beautiful meditation on the intersections of nature, poetry, and illness, Some of Us Just Fall is an intimate rendering of pain and expression of joy as much as it is essential reading on the cost of medical misogyny, the illusion of “the nature cure,” and the dangers of ableism both systematic and internalized.

This is not a book about getting better. This is a book about living better with illness.


Praise for Some of Us Just Fall: On Nature and Not Getting Better

"Polly Atkin's work is a luminous swim through the worlds of chronic illness, wedded to place in a way that adds a new layer to conversations about how bodies resonate with landscape and nature, with a depth of research that provides an ever-illuminating web."
Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman

"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

"Raises the standard of nature writing. This is both radical manifesto and activism in book form."
Sally Huband, author of Sea Bean

"Essentially, this is a book about bearing the unbearable. A book about acceptance. Leaning into an experience of this world though a sick body by understanding cognitively and physically that neither diagnosis nor time in nature are curative."
Glasgow Review of Books,

"A lyrical swirl of memoir, nature writing and pathography…"
Belfast Telegraph,

"Timely, lyrical and insightful… her descriptions of her daily walks and swims [are] so beautiful."
Jack Clark, The Times

"Polly Atkin writes with glorious and precise beauty. 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

"Compelling and hopeful."
Outdoor Swimmer Magazine, Book of the Month

"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

"A stunning book about chronic illness that will stay with you long after you finish reading."
Catherine Renton, The Wee Review

"Striking."
Caro Sanderson, Bookseller, Editor’s Choice

"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

"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 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

"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

"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 & Stones

"In prose of extraordinary strength and inventiveness, Atkin 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

"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 Indigenous Species, Rope, and 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, A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings

"Meditative, calm and oh so gorgeously written, it is transporting me to the waters of Grasmere from a poet-swimmers eye-view."
Anna Fleming, author of Time on Rock