Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Don't judge a book by its cover, judge the publisher...

This REALLY annoys me.

What is the plot of this book? It follows ten years in the life of a girl called Judith, from her first emotional arrival at boarding school in England from Singapore, through her friendship with the glamorous Carey-Lewis family, to her time in London and in the Far East during the Second World War. She spends a lot of this time down in Cornwall, at the Carey-Lewis estate of Nancherrow.

What does the cover show? A boy, playing in a rock-pool. I don't know who this boy is supposed to be. Judith has a sibling, but it's a sister. Edward Carey-Lewis is nearly eighteen when they first meet. There are no little boys in the book. There are rock-pools, however, so they can get points for that, but no little boys.


This is just laziness, as far as I can see. Bung any stock picture on it, it'll be fine! A book has to go through many stages to get published; I think Pilcher may be dead (or at least quite old), but someone along the way must have read it, mustn't they? Someone? Anyone? At the very least, can't they have read the blurb, or a precis? Or perhaps it's all a patriarchal belief that people won't read a book with a girl on the cover.

I've quite frequently experienced Book-Cover Rage recently. These bubblegum Austens were the most recent focus of my ire, because of their cynical attempt to tap into the chicklit market - part of a general misinterpretation of Austen as fluffy and girly (which they certainly aren't, as anyone who's actually read them knows). It took me months to find a second-hand Penguin Sense and Sensibility that I could bear to put on my bookshelf.

Books for me are furniture - or ornaments, I suppose. And so I'm very picky about the covers of books. If the cover is ugly, I won't buy it, I'll look for another edition. If there isn't another edition, I'll wait until an old one turns up at Oxfam. I won't choose to read a book because of the cover (it's usually a combination of title and blurb and first page skim), but the cover will determine whether I buy the book. And it's because of Penguin's brilliant Classics and Modern Classics series that I love them so much - I nearly went for work experience there, while I still wanted to be a publisher.

My dears, this has turned into a rant. Again. (But I'm waiting for my results, and so I'm trying desperately not to think about them...)


  1. Hmm, that cover also makes it look a bit like it should belong in the misery-lit section.

    I've temporarily avoided a number of books when I've only found them in hastily cobbled together 'recently adapted for movie/TV, let's cash in' covers. And it took me years to bring myself to buy Lucy Ellmann's Dot In The Universe; sounded right up my street from the review I'd read (and was; very much so), but that bloody cover... [shudders]

  2. I met a Swedish gentleman the other night - dapper moustache; well-seasoned wife - who had dragged his family to the UK because he read the novels of Rosamund Pilcher. They're set in Cornwall, he told me. He'd just been to see Phantom of the Opera, he told me.

  3. As much as I hate to admit it, "Coming Home" is one of my favourite books. I have read it a million and one times (well, maybe not that many tiemes!) and still manage to lose myself in it. Sad?

    But yes, the cover is rubbish. The copy I have has a painting of a girl looking out to the sea (much like Gus probably painted of Judith) Appropriate :)