The Undying by Anne Boyer

A week after her 41st birthday, Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living payslip to payslip, the condition was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness.

In The Undying – at once her harrowing memoir of survival, and a 21st-century Illness as Metaphor – Boyer draws on sources from ancient Roman dream diarists to cancer vloggers to explore the experience of illness. She investigates the quackeries, casualties and ecological costs of cancer under capitalism, and dives into the long line of women writing about their own illnesses and deaths, among them Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker and Susan Sontag.

Genre-bending, devastating and profoundly humane, The Undying is an unmissably insightful meditation on cancer, the cancer industry and the sicknesses and glories of contemporary life.


In 1972, Susan Sontag was planning a work to be called ‘On Women Dying’ or ‘Deaths of Women’ or ‘How Women Die’.



(@PenguinUKBooks, 17 September 2019, ebook, 320 pages, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)




This is a new author for me. I don’t have any personal experience of breast cancer, luckily no women in my family have had it, recovered from it or died from it so the author’s experiences were new territory for me. I found this quite a harrowing book at times as the author grapples with mortality, her cancer and her survival rate by discussing her own experiences and the experiences of other women who’ve had breast cancer through history. The statistics she shares about how common breast cancer is, how it can affect anyone with breast tissue not just women and how patients are treated staggered me especially when she’s given a mastectomy and discharged from hospital the same day and expected to keep working as if everything is hunky-dory. I cried a lot as this book really touched me.  

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