Wellcome Book Prize

Marion Coutts wins

A tale of a family’s journey through terminal illness has won the Wellcome Book Prize. Artist Marion Coutts’ memoir, The Iceberg, describes the 18 months leading up to the death of her husband, art critic Tom Lubbock, after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Chair of Judges Bill Bryson said in a statement: ‘From an extremely strong shortlist of books that blend exquisite writing with scientific rigour and personal experience, The Iceberg stood out. 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 a long time after.’

Marion Coutts is an artist and writer and wrote the introduction to Tom Lubbock’s memoir Until Further Notice, I am Alive, published in 2012. She is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and lives in London with her son. Worth £30,000, the prize celebrates the best new books, fiction and non-fiction, that engage with aspects of medicine, health or illness.

Director of Culture and Society at the Wellcome Trust, Simon Chaplin, said he was delighted that Coutts had taken the prize. He added: ‘The Iceberg shines a burning light on the devastating impact of illness and loss on those who surround and support someone in decline, while simultaneously celebrating the powerful bonds of family and love. It is tremendously difficult to read, but impossible not to become absorbed.’

Bill Bryson was joined on the judging panel by psychologist Professor Uta Frith (University College London), bestselling author Mark Haddon, BBC presenter Razia Iqbal, and barrister and broadcaster Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

Another book shortlisted for the prize was Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh. In our June issue, he will be giving a neurosurgeon’s perspective on the brain and psychology. 

- Ella Rhodes

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