Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat

The Iceberg

by Marion Coutts

“A memoir quite unlike any other. It has the strength of an arrow: taut, spiked, quavering, working to its fatal conclusion . . . an extraordinary story told in an extraordinary way.” —Sunday Times

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date February 02, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2460-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Winner of the Welcome Book Prize and finalist for every major nonfiction award in the UK, including the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Award, The Iceberg is artist and writer Marion Coutts’s astonishing memoir; an “adventure of being and dying” and a compelling, poetic meditation on family, love, and language.

In 2008, Tom Lubbock, the chief art critic for the Independent, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The Iceberg is his wife, Marion Coutts’s, fierce, exquisite account of the two years leading up to his death. Alongside their two-year-old son, Ev—whose language is developing as Tom’s is disappearing—Marion and Tom lovingly weather the storm together. In short bursts of beautifully textured prose, The Iceberg becomes a singular work of art and an uplifting and universal story of endurance in the face of loss.


“A book that clearly had to be written . . . to be read by anyone who ever pauses to consider our mortality.” —Sunday Telegraph

“Mesmerizing, harrowing, and radiant . . . impossible to put it down.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“Unflinching yet uplifting . . . [Coutts is] a chronicler of what it means to be human.” —Financial Times

“A fierce love letter-cum-elegy . . . This is far more than just another book about grief.” —Marina Warner, Observer

“The most heartbreaking memoir of the year.” —Independent on Sunday

“Marion Coutts’ account of living with her husband’s illness and death is wise, moving and beautifully constructed. Reading it, you have the sense of something truly unique being brought into the world—it stays with you for a long time after.” —Bill Bryson (Wellcome Prize citation)

“The writing is lyrical, textured, perfectly paced; the sentences short so that we  feel Coutts’s moments of panic, her quickened heartbeat . . . [A] startlingly beautiful and inspiring pioneer text.” —Independent

“An extraordinary vigil of a book, a work of art.” —Observer

“[Coutts] chooses her words with such beautiful scrupulousness, never twisting or turning the knife of her story to exact our pity or admiration; her thought is like sensation, her descriptions of feeling are often like notes for a visual work . . . Her book is a homage to an exceptional man; it’s also the work of an exceptional woman artist.” —Guardian

“Extraordinary . . . Not quite like any other bereavement memoir.” —Evening Standard

“Searing, shocking, unflinching, profoundly moving.” —Spectator


A book about the future must be written in advance. Later I won’t have the energy to speak. So I will do it now.

The others are near. I can touch them, call them to me and they are here. We are all here, Tom, my husband, and Ev, our child. Tom is his real name and Ev is not really called Ev but Ev means him. He is eighteen months old and still so fluid that to identify him is futile. We will all be changed by this. He the most.

The home is the arena for our tri-part drama: the set for everything that occurs in the main. We go out, in fact all the time, yet this is where we are most relaxed. This is the place where you will find us most ourselves.

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: clean, complete and total save in one respect. It seems that after the event, the decision we make is to remain. Our unit stands.

This alone will not save us but whenever we look, it is the case. The decision is joint and tacit and I am surprised to realize this. Though we talked about countless things—talk is all we ever do—we did not address it directly. So not a decision then, more a mode, arrived at together.