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The Iceberg

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,267 ratings  ·  183 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)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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(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 power ...more
Claire Fuller
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.
Joachim Stoop
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5 stars, not a gram of stardust less.

I recommend this book to anyone who've lost someone really close (like I did with my own mother). Lately I've read a lot of these memoires dealing with cancer, loss, grief, but except for CS Lewis' A grief observed, nothing comes close to this one. It is at the same time delineative and poetic. Writing doesn't come closer to the heart of the matter and the matter of the heart than here.
Andrea James
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Mrs. Danvers
That was lovely. I don't know how she did it, and I don't think she realizes the depth and universality of what she has written. I suspect she thinks she wrote about one family's experience. But there is something so heroic about her -- asking friends for what she needs, telling us about her emotional turmoil and her occasional frustration with her toddler, staying so deeply connected to her husband.

I was so sorry that she had such a shit time with palliative care, and I was sorry too that she
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won't be adding this book to the Phobia or Depression discussion groups . Author has a great use of language but the subject , a two-year + battle her husband wages with brain cancer , does not make this read one of the feel-good category . Sobering if you know someone who is going through a terminal carcinoma , but tough reading even so . ...more
Laurie Notaro
Apr 20, 2016 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
Stephen Simpson
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read multiple cancer memoirs since the death of my wife (from cancer), and this is one of the relatively few I've come across written solely from the perspective of the surviving spouse.

The style was quite different. While there was plenty of factual biography and descriptions of day-to-day life, the book was written in a style that I'd call free verse poetry. This gives it a hard-to-pin down, almost dreamy, feel to everything.

What may be hard for readers who haven't gone through this is
Aug 24, 2014 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 gr ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Almost totally cliche free book about watching a loved one die, incredible.
DNF-ed this one as it just wasn't my kind of read sadly. ...more
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
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts was my book of the year in 2015. Never have I read an illness narrative which is so poignant, nor a reflection on life which sings with such beauty and sadness. A recent presentation which I had to give on the book is below.

Marion Coutts’ The Iceberg presents not just one story – that of her husband Tom Lubbock’s gradual decline after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2008 – but three; her own, Tom’s, and their young son Ev’s. She writes, ‘We will all
I read this book (which was just waiting on my Kindle for such a moment) for the Popsugar Challenge 2020 prompt of "a book with an upside down image on the cover". What a silly reason to read such a profound book! The book is the memoir of a couple (with a toddler son) coping with the husband's diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death from a brain tumor. The way it is written is really sublime, and heartbreaking at the same time. Her husband was a writer (an art critic) and she an artist, and th ...more
Feb 13, 2016 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
Aug 18, 2015 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. ...more
Maria Longley
May 27, 2015 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
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. ...more
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking
Christine Staricka
Aug 14, 2016 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.
** Books 112 - 2018 **

This books to accomplish Tsundoku Books Challenge 2018

2,8 of 5 stars!

I can't connect myself into the author what she wanna say about in this books. Even near of the death of Tom, her husband i can't feel any sadness of it. I dunno why is it because her writing style or i wanna read her more explanation and description when her husband is passed away but unfortunately i didn't found one in this books.

Seriously i prefer read when the breath becomes air than this pieces >__
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Frustration and intensity colour Coutt's perspective but how can it not, given the heartbreaking nature of her narrative. The anger and devastation is certainly not for everyone, but beneath it lies an examination of loss so raw that it becomes breathtaking in its honesty.

"And so are the living comforted."
Eric Morrissey
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Marion Coutts lets us in on something intensely personal and special in this memoir. And she does it so beautifully. Moving. Top five read ever? Likely. It affected me more than most. I will have to sit in it for a while. Five stars easily.
Sophy H
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having read Tom Lubbock's Until Further Notice, I Am Alive last year and found it beautifully touching; I wanted to Marion Coutts The Iceberg to gain her perspective on the tragic situation into which they were both forced.

Whilst Lubbock's book is gentle and accepting, Marion's recounting of events is understandably much more tinged with anger, frustration and desperation. Having the knowledge that life will never be the same, that the man who you love, adore and know inside out, may change bey
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, poetic, picturesque and complex book. A book of free sentences, thoughts, reflections. At times some ideas were difficult for me to grasp and even when rereading them I failed to pin out what did she mean.
But it is like reading poetry- sometimes you don't have to grasp the meaning, but rhythm. Like a truthful and unfailing metronome it brings you to the end of the piece. And then you understand or left still wondering but profoundly moved. And the finale was grand. I was witnessing he
May 14, 2015 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
Nicola Pierce
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an extraordinary read. I bought it maybe two years ago and then never felt in the right mood for a memoir about a wife losing her husband to cancer. I don't know what decided me to pick it up this week but I did. As I read it, I was unsure if I was enjoying it - a peculiar word, I know, to use about this story. It was certainly powerful and hugely absorbing but I wasn't rushing to dive into it. However, when I did sit down to read it, I was completely lost in it.

The sadness is palpable
Sorayya Khan
Apr 13, 2016 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 acco ...more
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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 s ...more

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