This Living and Immortal Thing

Austin Duffy

Published: 2 February 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781783781683

Other Editions

Trade Paperback

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Published: 28 January 2016
Trade Paperback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781783781676

Ebook Available


This Living and Immortal Thing inhabits a world of medicine, research, cancer and death. Its disillusioned and often darkly funny narrator is an Irish oncologist, who is searching for a scientific breakthrough in the lab of a New York hospital while struggling with his failing marriage and his growing alienation within the city's urban spaces. Tending to the health of his laboratory mice, he finds comfort in work that is measurable, results that are quantifiable.

But life is every bit as persistent as the illness he studies. As he starts a new treatment on his mice, he meets a beautiful but elusive Russian translator at the hospital, his estranged wife gets in touch and his supervisor pressures him to push ahead professionally. And always there is the pull of family, of the place he considers home.

Shot through with Duffy's haunting, beautiful descriptions of the science underlying cancer, which starkly illustrate the paradox of an illness with a persistent and deadly life force at its heart, This Living and Immortal Thing shows how the cruelty of the disease is a price we pay for the joy and complexity of being in the world.

About the author

Image of Austin Duffy

Austin Duffy grew up in Ireland and studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin. He is a practising medical oncologist at the National Cancer Institute in Washington DC, where he now lives with his wife and son. In 2011, Duffy was awarded RTE's Francis MacManus award for his short story 'Orca'. This Living and Immortal Thing is his first novel. More about the author


‘[Duffy's] knowledge, and the way he blends science so seamlessly into his story, making it not just palatable but intriguing to the lay person, makes this an important book to treasure... There are laugh-out-loud moments as we follow the unnamed narrator through his days, gaining extraordinary glimpses into the characters of all those he encounters [and] the love story at the book's core, is heart-breakingly told’ Sue Leonard



‘[Duffy] immerse[s] the reader in the world of medicine... It is the details that bring the narrative to life, the clinician's eye for spot-on summaries... convincing... pensive and stark’ Sarah Gilmartin

‘[With] precise prose [that] can often be subtly disarming... the story is dominated by its thought-provoking ideas and will appeal to readers who share the central character's fascination with the beauty and absurdity of life’

[This Living and Immortal Thing] blends an experience with fiction and offers more than informed opinion and insight to medicine, science, life and death. This is a story [...] also about life, death, loss and replacement, and a book about medicine'’ Fergus Shanahan

‘A tremendous, strange and beguiling novel that has a bearing on all our lives. Droll, disturbing and surreptitiously profound’ William Boyd

‘An immortal, indeed, and yet strange thing: In his unshrinking examination of bodily death and spirits in limbo, Austin Duffy has created a miraculously life-affirming novel’ Gavin Corbett, author

‘Authentic... hypnotic... this is an impressive debut with... a distinct ring of truth’ Jane Graham

‘Cancer is indiscriminate, pervasive and pernicious. Austin Duffy does well to create an atmosphere and setting that seems almost uniquely suited for cancer to flourish/ New York is a monster - a behemoth that breathes and belches carcinogens. [Duffy] is skilled at rendering the modern, mechanized world in a way that is visceral and frightening’ Alan Murrin

‘Despite its chilly subject, the book has a certain lightness of touch’ Keith Miller

‘Duffy captures this sense of a life in suspension... Oddly beguiling’ Donal O'Donoghue

‘Duffy interrogates the human fear of both emotional closeness and mortality, while demonstrating the power of human connection’ Sara Keating

‘One of the most interesting books I have read in years’ Erik Martiny

‘Through a beauty of description that extends to cancer itself [...] the novel becomes an attempt to absorb, assimilate, even accept, our great natural enemy. A moving, rewarding and thoughtful book’ Peter Beech

‘Well-written and authoritative’ Lesley McDowell

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