Press release

'The Iceberg' by Marion Coutts wins the Wellcome Book Prize 2015

Marion Coutts has been awarded the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 for 'The Iceberg', her memoir on art, work, death and language, published by Atlantic Books. The announcement was made by acclaimed author and Chair of Judges, Bill Bryson, at a special ceremony held on Wednesday 29 April, in Wellcome Collection's new Reading Room.

Worth £30,000, the Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction.

'The Iceberg' is an exploration of the impact of death in real time, a sustained act of looking that only ends when life does. In 2008 the art critic Tom Lubbock was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The tumour was located in the area controlling speech and language, and would eventually rob him of the ability to speak. He died early in 2011. Marion Coutts was his wife.

In short bursts of beautiful, textured prose, Coutts describes the eighteen months leading up to her partner's death. The book – an account of a family unit, man, woman, young child, under assault, and how the three of them fought to keep it intact – has so far been shortlisted for Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Costa Biography Award, and the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize.

Announcing the winner, Chair of Judges Bill Bryson said: "Highlighting the importance of literature in exploring the human experience within medicine, the Wellcome Book Prize 2015 has spotlighted a pleasingly diverse array of subjects and genres. From an extremely strong shortlist of books that blend exquisite writing with scientific rigour and personal experience, 'The Iceberg' stood out.

"Marion Coutts’s 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."

Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society at the Wellcome Trust, said: "I am delighted that Marion Coutts has taken the prize this year – this is an immensely powerful book, written with astonishing candour and pulsing with raw emotion. '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."

Marion Coutts is an artist and writer. She wrote the introduction to Tom Lubbock's memoir 'Until Further Notice, I am Alive', published by Granta in 2012. She is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and lives in London with her son.

The Wellcome Book Prize 2015 was judged by a panel comprising: internationally acclaimed author and Chair of Judges Bill Bryson; Prof. Uta Frith DBE, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at UCL; bestselling author Mark Haddon; BBC presenter Razia Iqbal; and barrister and broadcaster Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

Previous winners of the Wellcome Book Prize have been Andrew Solomon for 'Far From the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity' in 2014, Thomas Wright for 'Circulation' in 2012, Alice LaPlante for 'Turn of Mind' in 2011, Rebecca Skloot for 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' in 2010, and Andrea Gillies for 'Keeper: Living with Nancy – A Journey into Alzheimer’s' in 2009.

Relaunched in 2014 with the strapline 'Books for the incurably curious', the Prize is open to both fiction and non-fiction titles which have been published in the UK during the Prize year.