The smallVOICE team review Marion Coutts’ moving memoir, The Iceberg in June’s podcast.
The book won the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014 and the Costa Biography Award 2014.
The Iceberg is not a novel, but a memoir of sorts on art, work, death and language. The book is Coutts’ response to the diagnosis, illness and death of her husband, the art critic, Tom Lubbock who died of a brain tumour in January 2011.
The tumour was located in the area controlling speech and language and would eventually rob him of the ability to speak. In short bursts of beautiful, textured prose, Coutts uses words as a weapon against loss.
The Iceberg is an exploration of the impact of death in real time, a sustained act of looking that only ends when life does. It gives an account of a small family unit under assault, and the inventiveness by which they tried to stay together. It charts the deterioration of Tom’s speech even as it records the developing language of his child. It navigates with great power the journey from home to hospital to hospice.
This is a highly visual book, written by a visual artist. Written with great narrative force, it is candid and illuminating. Fury, selfishness, grief, indignity, impotence, all are examined and brought to light. Yet out of this comes a rare story about belonging. The book becomes a celebration of the ‘adventure of being and dying’.
The Iceberg, Marion Coutts, Atlantic Books
Hardback, 304 pages, ISBN 9781782393504