The Body in the Library

Graham Caveney


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Peninsula Press Ltd
30 May 2024
ISBN: 9781913512507
176 pages

From the publisher

Cancer, tumour, cancer. The words fizzle and dissolve into nothing like aspirin in water. I exist in the third person. The room is blue.

When Graham Caveney was a child the word ‘cancer’ was unspeakable, only uttered in jokes told by people too frightened to say the word in any other context. Now the boy with perpetual nervousness is a fifty-something man, and the oncologist in front of him is saying words evacuated of all meaning: Inoperable. Incurable.

In this startling and deeply moving memoir from one of the great chroniclers of British working-class life, Graham Caveney charts a year of disease from diagnosis to past ‘original sell-by-date’. Shot through with Northerness, tenderness, and Caveney’s trademark humour, The Body in the Library reflects on an unfinished lifetime filled with books and with love.

What’s it like to realise that the books on your shelf will remain unread? That the book you are writing will be your last – that you have become your own deadline?

Praise for The Body in the Library

‘Graham’s writing is always thoughtful and witty, erudite and hugely entertaining. I so enjoyed this touching and insightful book.’ – David Nicholls

‘I don’t have to urge you to read The Body in the Library. You’re already going to read it – why else would you be holding it in your hands? All I will say is that it is, in my for-what-it’s-worth opinion, a small (in fact not so small) masterpiece. A book that will take hold of your heart and never let go.’  – Jonathan Coe

The Body in the Library is as compelling as it is unnerving. On the one hand confronting illness and mortality head-on, it is also the story of a generation who raised themselves on great music and great literature. It is the combination of these themes – how might the music and literature help when you are suddenly on the front-line of life or death – that makes this book important, and, if you can face it, necessary reading.’ – Michael Bracewell