A Fortunate Woman

Polly Morland

Illustrated by Richard Baker

09 June 2022
385 pages


'Polly Morland and Richard Baker have more than done justice to the original John Berger book - and produced a work that stimulates the eye and mind in equal measure.' Alain de Botton

A Fortunate Woman is a compelling, thoughtful and insightful look at the life and work of a country doctor. Funny, moving and not afraid of the dark, it will speak to listeners everywhere.

Polly Morland was clearing her late mother’s house when she found a battered paperback fallen behind the family bookshelf. Opening it, she was astonished to see an old photograph of the remote, wooded valley in which she lives. The book was A Fortunate Man, John Berger’s classic account of a country doctor working in the same valley more than half a century earlier. This chance discovery led Morland to the remarkable doctor who serves that valley community today, a woman whose own medical vocation was inspired by reading the very same book as a teenager.

A Fortunate Woman tells her compelling, true story, and how the tale of the old doctor has threaded through her own life in magical ways. Working within a community she loves, she is a rarity in contemporary medicine: a modern doctor who knows her patients inside out, the lives of this ancient, wild place entwined with her own.

Revisiting Berger’s story after half a century of seismic change, both in our society and in the ways in which medicine is practised, A Fortunate Woman sheds light on what it means to be a doctor in today’s complex and challenging world. Interweaving the doctor’s story with those of her patients, reflecting on the relationship between landscape and community, and upon the wider role of medicine in society, a unique portrait of a twenty-first century family doctor emerges.

Includes an accompanying PDF with photographs by Richard Baker.

'All human life is here in this evocative portrayal of the challenges and joys of rural family doctoring in modern times. Enthralling and uplifting.' James LeFanu, author The Rise & Fall of Modern Medicine

'I was consoled and compelled by this book’s steady gaze on healing and caring. The writing is beautiful.' Sarah Moss, author of Summerwater and Ghost Wall

'A vibrant and authentic portrait of the rural family doctor in these difficult contemporary times.' Trisha Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Oxford

Morland writes about nature and the changing landscape with such lyrical precision that her prose sometimes seems close to poetry . . . There has been no shortage in recent years of books about healthcare . . . With this gem, Morland has done something similar for general practice. Let’s just hope the policymakers listen.
The doctor's kindly, hollistic approach - she makes time to investigate her patients' social as well as physical needs - seems to evoke a lost world . . . Morland's book contains a profound message for the future at a critical moment for general practice and us all.
Polly Morland is a journalist and film-maker with a kindly, dramatic writing style and a feel for the human story . . . This book deepens our understanding of the life and thoughts of a modern doctor, and the modern NHS, and it expands movingly to chronicle a community and a landscape – “the valley” itself is a defining feature of people’s lives.