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Undying: A Love Story

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  691 ratings  ·  134 reviews
How can you say goodbye to the love of your life?

In Undying Michel Faber honours the memory of his wife, who died after a six-year battle with cancer. Bright, tragic, candid and true, these poems are an exceptional chronicle of what it means to find the love of your life. And what it is like to have to say goodbye.

All I can do, in what remains of my brief time,
is mention,
Hardcover, 122 pages
Published July 7th 2016 by Canongate Books
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  691 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a heart
Shelves: reviewed, poetry, 2017
Is it morbid or obscene to look at the subtly worded but harrowing pain of others? Like the Flemish poet Herman de Coninck (1944-1997) who wrote acerbically he won the Provincial poetry prize thanks to the death of his first wife (An, 1971) one can expect writers to resort to words when tragedy hits. Novelist Michel Faber turned to poetry to commemorate and deal with the loss of his wife Eva Youren to cancer in 2014. By writing this intimate and deeply courageous and moving recount on his though ...more
Today happens to be my ninth wedding anniversary. For Michel Faber, however, it marks a more somber occasion: two years since his wife, Eva, died of cancer. They met in 1988 and got to spend over 25 years together. It was a second marriage for Eva, a visual artist – a bohemian life full of travel and each working on their art, until a six-year battle with multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow) cut Eva down in her early fifties.

Faber’s new book, Undying: A Love Story, is a striking outpou
Laura Jones
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ignore the pessimism and skepticism of other Goodreads reviews if you want to read some hauntingly intimate and considered poetry on the universal theme of grief. Sure, it'll be a topic done to, um, death for many readers but that kind of attitude misses the point of the reason for the work existing: for Eva and Michel. Undying is for them and it's a brave decision for Faber to share it at all. Many times while reading it you wonder if you should be reading it, should be having such insight into ...more
David Kenvyn
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is extraordinary. It is Michel Faber's elegy for his wife, who died of cancer. In the Foreword he says that he is not a writer of poetry. Or rather that, before she died, it took him ages to write a poem that he considered to be acceptable. Then the need came upon him, and that need was to deal with loss, with grief, with bereavement. And so we have gained this remarkable series of poems, this poetic symphony to Eva, the love of his life, the love that will not die while he is alive.

Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm generally failing to find the words for this, so I will say that I've been lucky enough by this point to see Michel read perhaps five, six poems from this by now, and it's in that pacing and air the rest of his collection was read. Don't Hesitate to Ask is a personal stand out. He's said it himself: this is not grief wrapped up in metaphor, this is a more direct view whose gaze some may not be able to hold. Undying handles the harsh, often brutal realities of illness, death and grief, all wh ...more
Viktor Janiš
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am the Czech translator of this book. While I don't think it would be appropriate to review this book, since I am obviously biased, I took the liberty to translate a Facebook post of one of the people who read my translation of Michel's poem "Don't hesitate to ask". This status (by Jan P. Martínek) was written a day after the terrorist attack in Brussels:
"Yesterday several people shared the comment of a member of the Block against Islam, the one with underlined sentence about how the person in
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a very touching collection of poetry. Do I think it's incredibly well-written? Not in all cases no - but you can feel the emotion of Michel Faber's words as he relays his relationship with his sadly passed wife Eva, and recounts the troubling times during and after her illness.

There are a number poems in this collection in particular that really resonated with me: The Time You Chose, which moved me to tears as I discussed it with a friend after reading, The 13th, which has some truly go
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
How do you rate someones pain and anger and grief?
By the way the words touch your soul, by the way your heart aches as you read.
This is a an exquisitely personal, intimate study of cancer, dying, grief and the authors love for his now deceased wife; his life companion, his life long love. ..

Poignant, angry (justifiably so), yet at times romantic and tender. This is love in real life, in the everyday, in the moment - be it the ugly moments of cancer or the moments the lovers dance and twirl tow
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
These are some earnest, heartfelt poems. He clearly loved his wife a lot and misses her. The poems themselves, however, are so-so. I definitely enjoy his novels much more.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Michel Faber wrote the majority of the poems collected in Undying: A Love Story after the death of his wife from cancer. In his introduction, Faber writes that the poems 'are arranged not in order of their composition but in their appropriate place in the narrative of losing and grieving for Eva.' Some poems here are achingly tender; others startle and shock. There is so much emotion packed into this powerful collection, and whilst I did not enjoy every single poem, they work so well together on ...more
[ 3.25 stars ]
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, own-read
'I have waited patiently, oh so patiently,
before asking,
in my gentlest voice:
Can I lure you away?
Can I tempt you with our history?
This mattress has missed you.
Hollowed, it is fit for noone else,
Oh, I know you are snug
in your self-containment.
I know you are settled,
finally at ease
in your ash.
But please...
Just for tonight...
Just for one night...
Sleep with me.'

This collection is incredibly powerful, painful, and brutal. Through beautiful language comes the most angry poems I have ever read. This bo
Charles Edwards-Freshwater
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Intimate, harrowing, lyrical, but most, importantly, filled with love. This collection of poetry is Faber's love letter to his dead wife in which he transforms the experience of her slowly dying of incurable cancer and their days filled with fear and sadness into a beautiful and hauntingly real collection of poems that I know will stick with me.

The love Faber had for his wife is absolutely palpable, and he doesn't shy away or overdramatise the harsh realities that suffering from cancer brings to
Paul Ataua
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Faber’s poems honor the memory of his wife’s six year battle with cancer. The poems are full of pain, anger, grief, but above all love. Maybe it’s because I lost my mother to cancer many years ago that ‘Undying’ resonates with me.
This is grief in all its intimate, raw and harrowing detail. From anger and guilt ('Such A Simple Thing I Could Have Fixed', dealing with mismatched bed linen, struck such a nerve it had me sobbing) to despair and fear of the future, Faber opens his soul and says the things we have thought and felt in our own moments of bereavement and heartache. These poems are beautifully written, honest and heartfelt, and so familiar.

Haunting, tender and full of love, I recommend you read these in a quiet, pe
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Holy crap. This was a tough read, but a beautiful one. 'Undying' is bursting with love and anger and grief. Such brutal honesty about cancer and death. ...more
Sara Jovanovic
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok

Unfortunately, this didn't doo much for me. I disliked nearly all of the poems with the exception being "Old Bird, Not Very Well". And I wanted something to read quickly, but I ended up reading this for three days.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I'm not crying, you're crying! ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This, like for instance C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, is the kind of book that is beyond any lucid literary critique. It feels downright amoral to point out its flaws, should they be there.

Faber is not a poet, not really, and as such his poetry is not the most accomplished or intricate that you will find, but that is not the point. One of the many touching things in this book (among the more obvious emotions) is that Faber has been able to employ this to him somewhat alien form or language of po
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Poetry as therapy. Much of this collection is loosely coupled from poetry and almost becomes prose. Some is very poetic. It is a study of change and powerless anger when the author loses his wife. He is angry at losing her as a lover and as a partner and as a part of his world.

Some of the poetry moved me deeply and I recognised the emotion. Some surprised me with how much it revealed. It is still relatively soon after the death of Eva.

I found it difficult to read this purely as poetry. The autho
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alenka of Bohemia
I have finished this book in one quiet evening.... and I feel too overwhelmed with emotion. Perhaps this is not the best poetry there is. But it sure is a love story, as true a love story as one can imagine.
Yasmeen Al-Salem
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the details in this book. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked this up without knowing it was poetry, not the marketing fault, just my own. To say I was surprised is an understatement, but I'm opinionated enough to actually read and review. I read most of these out loud, and some were quite interesting. Some of these are heartbreakingly true and I was impressed by the raw honesty. I was picking a Michael Faber novel as my next selection and this arrived before Under the Skin, so I thought what the hell.

The book is quite short, and I read the bette
Cathy Geagan
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I put off reading Undying because I was afraid my usually stone-cold cynical heart could not cope with it. From the queasy raw intensity of his genre defying masterpiece Under the Skin, to the sweeping Victorian expanse of The Crimson Petal and the White, something about Michel Faber’s writing grabs me utterly. His directness of tone and immersive descriptions are a heady combination – and one that made his first slim volume of poetry slightly frightening. Undying chronicles Faber’s attempts to ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A collection of poems, roughly chronologically sorted around his wife's cancer diagnosis, death, and him trying to live on. Amazingly honest.

How reading this went:

1. Try not to cry
2. Cry a lot

Lucencies (2)

You worked covertly,
nurturing by stealth.
You lifted people up,
nudged them to transcend
their limitations,
in sickness and in health.
Those you assisted looked around
to thank you, but you'd hide.
When your influence began to spread
too far, you died. I still hear
your whisper in my ear:
'Let's be going
Mirjam Celie
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
That really took my breath away...

To quote the end of just one of all these excellent, crude, beautiful and sad poems:

What can I do to mark the passing of my wife?
Your cancer killed you and yet not one person
thought to call the BBC.
No weeping passersby left wreaths outside the scene,
no hacks accused the government
of being slow to act.
Your illness, with its crises flagging every stage,
failed, even so, to win a Wikipedia page.
In global terms, yours was an insignificant life.
Your death a n
Marlene Willinger
I actually bought this book because the title intrigued me and after I saw that it contained poems I thought 'Why not?'

I wasn't that much of a poetry fan in truth and had just started to discover poetry as something that interested me but I certainly don't regret buying it.

I discovered that this isn't a collection of poems, this is - as the title says - a love story. It is incredibly well written and even though I am not the biggest fan of cancer stories I really enjoyed reading it. The poems ar
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shocking I finished a book:))

It was good but it's a really personal and subjective poetry collection and idrk how to rate such a personal thing??? and also because I haven't ever experienced losing someone in general I couldn't connect with it (in other words I'm a sheltered cold unfeeling piece of shit wow who knew:)). But I definitely liked the first bit more than the second.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Beautiful and heart wrenching and true to basically all facets of grief and just very, very good.

Edit: 2 years later, after my first full reread, this is still very good. I still love 'Don't hesitate to ask' the most, although 'Risotto' and 'Of Old Age, In Our Sleep' have also stuck with me a lot. It's just very good.
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Michel Faber (born 13 April 1960) is a Dutch writer of English-language fiction.

Faber was born in The Hague, The Netherlands. He and his parents emigrated to Australia in 1967. He attended primary and secondary school in the Melbourne suburbs of Boronia and Bayswater, then attended the University Of Melbourne, studying Dutch, Philosophy, Rhetoric, English Language (a course involving translation a

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