Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Iceberg” as Want to Read:
The Iceberg
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Iceberg

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  629 Ratings  ·  114 Reviews
In 2008, Marion Coutts' husband, the art critic Tom Lubbock, was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and told that he had not more than two years to live. The tumour was located in the area of the brain that controls speech and language, and would eventually rob him of the ability to speak. Tom was 53 when he died, leaving Marion and their son Eugene, just two years old, alone. ...more
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published July 3rd 2014 by Atlantic Books (first published July 1st 2014)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Iceberg, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Iceberg

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Rebecca Foster
(I have posted a concise version of my review at The Bookbag.)

“Something has happened. A piece of news. We have had a diagnosis that has the status of an event. The news makes a rupture with what went before.” With these plain, unsentimental words Coutts begins her devastating yet mysteriously gorgeous account of her husband Tom Lubbock’s decline and death from a brain tumor. Currently only available in the UK, the book was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, was a finalist for the Sam
I feel utterly privileged to have been able to read this book. Of course, a memoir about a husband's illness and eventual death from a brain tumour is by no means an easy read. It's personal, intimate and passionate, everything a memoir like this should be. But Coutts manages to create something that is more than just a touching personal memoir, but also a truly special tribute both to her husband and to her own bravery. This memoir has a striking and beautiful, lyrical writing style, that ...more
Andrea James
Mar 29, 2015 Andrea James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies, general
Perhaps it's because, like the author's husband, my dad's final life-ending tumour affected his language centre that I was particularly drawn to the writing in this book. I can see how some people may not find the writing style appealing - I thought it's staccato rhythm was well-suited to how my mind felt during the surreal time when my dad was dying. But even before I experienced my dad dying, I could relate to quite a bit of her mental tumbles.

I loved the author's visual descriptions and analo
Marion Coutts's memoir about her husband's diagnosis, treatment and eventual death from, a brain tumour is an incredibly accomplished book. The prose is dense, poetic, sometimes hard and often requires a second reading.

Did I like it? I'm not sure whether I did, in all honesty. But I'm glad I read it. So, I'm not going to rate this book on my enjoyment of it, because to enjoy this book I think would be the wrong word. It is an important book - it tells it how it is, from the partner's point of v
Aug 26, 2014 Lynda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, memoir
This is an awesome but privileged book. Awesome in the sense that Courts chooses to expose herself and her family in their most intimate dance with death. She accomplishes this both passionately and dispassionately and with an artist's eye for detail colours it all in gloriously making a bravura collage of a rather mundane tale of suffering: man gets brain tumour is temporarily assuaged by chemotherapy is allowed access to Avastin presumably because of who he is and dies anyway with a bulbous ...more
Claire Fuller
Sep 16, 2015 Claire Fuller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
I tried to savour this beautiful book; to allow myself only a little taste every day, not just because I knew how it would end and I wanted to delay that, but because the writing is rich, full-flavoured and as dense as a Christmas cake soaked in brandy. Each bite had to be digested and considered slowly.
It is lyrical and touching without in any way being maudlin or sentimental. I don't think Marion Coutts set out to touch us, but she does.
Oct 11, 2015 Shawn rated it it was amazing
Haunting. Poetic. Brilliant. An artistic retelling of love and incomprehensible loss. Lyrical, with word pictures that make you catch your breath. Not something you're happy about reading, but something you're definitely happy you read.
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
This is an extraordinary memoir. The story is moving, as a memoir about your husband dying from brain cancer should be, but it is the writing and the poetic way the author tells of her family's experience that make this memoir very special. Highly recommended.
May 26, 2015 Zora rated it it was amazing
Almost totally cliche free book about watching a loved one die, incredible.
Feb 22, 2015 Cathrine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Beyond beautiful !
Sep 25, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 rounded up.

It it surely masochistic to read a book documenting a slow death, knowing how sad it will be. But having read an excerpt on The Guardian or somewhere I was curious. Marion's writing is beautiful. I wish I could do it justice, I wish I could write a review in the same way she wrote this book. It is flowery and initially a bit much (I found myself rolling my eyes and wondering, "is that necessary?") but I settled into it as the book and I became further acquainted.

This book document
Feb 13, 2016 Carolinemawer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: death-and-dying
How to do credit to this great book?
Marion may be a visual artist, and there's lots about looking and seeing in this book.
But she's a very clever writer too. Letting us into the decay of words in her husband, just at the same time as her son is learning to talk. Showing all the different levels of loss and love and life that go on, and keep going on for her family - as for all of us, even if in a less acute way. Showing us the gains as well as the losses: how many couples are as close as Marion
Laurie Notaro
Apr 20, 2016 Laurie Notaro rated it it was amazing
I have read two incredibly powerful books almost back to back: the history of Ravensbruck, the Nazi concentration camp for women, and now, The Iceberg. Oh boy. The Iceberg. A memoir by Marion Coutts that narrates her husband's illness with brain cancer. I won't say battle because there is no winning. Sparsely and precisely written, but packed with underlying currents that are extremely intense. Coutts is startlingly very matter-of-fact, but in this memoir, she underlines what it is to be human, ...more
Sorayya Khan
Apr 13, 2016 Sorayya Khan rated it it was amazing
This is a memoir of dying, of witness to it. It is brutal in the juxtaposition of a husband's journey out of this world and a toddler's arrival in it. One is losing language because of a brain tumor and the other is gathering words, faster and faster, into his being. Marion Coutts, whose account this is, is left holding down the fort during the two years of Tom Lubbock's illness. Living and dying are happening contemporaneously and the shattering ruin of this journey makes for an incredible ...more
Maria Longley
May 27, 2015 Maria Longley rated it it was amazing
What is it to be a witness? What is it to look, and not look away?

Marion Coutts is witness for her husband. Witness to Tom Lubbock's terminal illness, but also his life, joys and work, in the time between diagnosis and hospice. There is a remarkable lack of self pity and plenty of honest observation in the recounting of their family life together, the three of them together.

It still feels, days after reading it, incredible how Marion Coutts opens up and lets strangers into the book and right up
Mar 19, 2016 Ivey rated it liked it
I read this in one sitting on a rather cold, rainy, and bleak day. It was a fitting context for this book, which opens with the author's husband, Tom, receiving a brain cancer diagnosis and barreling from that moment to the awful, inevitable conclusion. Coutts focuses on the lives Tom and their very young son during the two years between Tom's diagnosis and his death. I had expected more description or involvement of the couple's oft-mentioned family and friends, but the tight scope makes for a ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it
Wow! What a heavy book and beautiful tribute to the author's late husband. It was a bit difficult to get through the first half of the book, but I found her story of caring for her husband while navigating the complicated and unforgiving healthcare system and raising their young child to have some sense of normalcy deeply profound. As a young physician training in Oncology I find this book insightful - I appreciate her bravery to write this novel on a subject so intimate and personal.
Gabi Coatsworth
Feb 29, 2016 Gabi Coatsworth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, british, grief
An extraordinary book. The Marion Coutts' late husband was a writer and artist. The author herself is an artist and writer. And what a writer. This memoir is both beautiful and fierce, and the artist's eye is evident in the way Coutts looks at her world and that of her husband and son. So many things resonated - the emotions, the frustration, sadness, hopefulness, energy, exhaustion - an amazing achievement. I hope writing it brought her as much comfort as reading it did me.
May 24, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marion Coutts takes the reader on one of the most harrowing journeys a human heart can make in this day-to-day recounting of the death of her husband, art critic, Tom Lubbock. Lovely writing with emotions and occurrences rendered so perfectly sometimes it is truly stunning.
Christine Staricka
Aug 14, 2016 Christine Staricka rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably heart-rending. The writing is so beyond phenomenal, the story is wrenching, I am changed after reading this book.
Jun 24, 2015 Beth rated it it was amazing
beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking
Oct 21, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it
Exquisitely written memoir of a marriage , of a family during the two years between cancer diagnosis and death. It is not grief alone but celebration. Unusual phrasing and wording echoes the problem of losing language. It is lovely and sad and happy.
Allen Groome
Oct 28, 2016 Allen Groome rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! I went through a similar experience. Mine was not so poetic.
Oct 15, 2016 Jane rated it liked it
Every review of this book will be a mass of cliches. I liked Marion's voice and I felt her love for Tom in every page. There were a few moments when the consideration of illness and death removed me from the immediacy of their story and I felt that was a weakness. Like many others, I was relieved that his death was peaceful and full of love.
Claire O'Sullivan
Oct 29, 2016 Claire O'Sullivan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
Beautifully haunting .Read for MILaN book group. As Toms voice disappears Marion's writing voice becomes clearer. An insight into the impact of terminal illness on a relationship.
Nathalie Keighley Kristensen
Jun 09, 2016 Nathalie Keighley Kristensen rated it really liked it

”People say that children put everything into perspective and then they say that again about dying. What do they say the rest of the time? Why, they don’t care about perspective at all.”

I have to say that while this quote may sound bitter, it is not. Marion Coutts is not bitter, she is an observer – and a blunt observer at that. This is an observation, and a rather good one. Marion has an 18-month-old son and a dying husband as this quote is presented in the book. She knows what she is about. It
Sep 10, 2016 Alicia rated it it was amazing
"Will I ever be sad in a normal way again? I look forward to that."
page 229
This book is like a poem that explains the year plus of a beloved slowly dying.
It does not matter how broken we are ~ and know we shall be, we will ALWAYS do what we can.
And let them know when they leave, they will leave a huge hole in our universe.
But in their moment of weakness & forgetting we are their strength & their memory.

Marion Coutts brings her husband Tom Lubbock, an art critic, quite alive
even in his
May 25, 2015 Nicola rated it really liked it
What struck me most while reading this testimony by Tom’s wife, Marion, is the simmering rawness in this account of living day by cataclysmic day with the ongoing situation. It’s quite harrowing, and you have to hope it is cathartic for the author, as it all too clearly strips away the layers as the assault hits in (“I have been unable to read since this began and it is getting worse. My eyes can’t focus, they skit across, landing on words and skimming them for meaning as if they were simply a ...more
Jul 19, 2015 Diana rated it it was amazing
This book came to my attention as the winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2015. The Iceberg is Marion Coutts' memoir about her husband's illness and eventual death from a brain tumor. The book lays out Coutts' feelings as she struggles to keep her family functioning in the face of her husband's illness. I found the beginning and end of the book a bit amorphous and hard to grasp, but overall I was absorbed and amazed by the writing. She wrote about death and illness in a way that seemed new to me. ...more
May 09, 2015 Evelyn rated it it was amazing
The author offers a window into the world of the caretaker, the loving family member or friend, who assumes responsibility for the care of a terminally ill person from the time of his/her diagnosis until the day that the disease takes it final toll and the person dies. This is not a maudlin read. It is filled with insights and one is alongside the author as her diary records the ups and downs of disease progression including treatment, remission, grasping for straws as one seeks new means of ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Probably Nothing
  • Until Further Notice, I Am Alive
  • The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream
  • In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Dying
  • Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic
  • Things I've Learned from Dying: A Book About Life
  • The Long Goodbye
  • Wondering Who You Are: A Memoir
  • Consequence: A Memoir
  • Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness
  • Living and Dying in Brick City
  • Land's Edge
  • The Guardians: An Elegy for a Friend
  • The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America
  • Eleanor Marx: A Life
  • Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist
  • My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir
  • My Life in Houses
Marion Coutts is an artist and writer. She was born in Nigeria and studied in Scotland. She works in video, film, sculpture and photography. Her work has been exhibited widely nationally and internationally, including solo shows at Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Wellcome Collection, London. She has held fellowships at Tate Liverpool and Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. In 2001 ...more
More about Marion Coutts...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“So what did you do when death came to your house? We continued in the same way as before. What is that, a failure of the imagination? Are you in denial? This is not wholly true; we continue in the same way as before but in parenthesis. My thinking has switched its grammar. The present continuous is its single operational tense. Uncertainty is our present and our future.” 3 likes
“There is going to be destruction: the obliteration of a person, his intellect, his experience and his agency. I am to watch it. This is my part.” 3 likes
More quotes…