For this month’s theme, Artreads, we looked at book covers and book art. What goes into making a good book cover? What attracts us to certain book covers? And the all-important question- do you judge books by their covers?
We were fortunate in that at the same time we were pondering on the answers to these questions, award winning Australian author Kate Forsyth happened to wander into Nowra Library (don’t you love it when authors wander in at precisely the right moment?) Kate was happy to talk about the cover art on her novel Bitter Greens with us in an imromptu interview session in the tea room, moments before she appeared for an author talk in the library upstairs.
Bitter Greens is a re-telling of the traditional fairy tale ‘Rapunzel’, interwoven with the story of the woman who first published the fairy tale, French courtier Charlotte Rose de la Force. Much of the novel is set in the Palace of Versailles, at the Court of the Sun King Louis XIV, and also in Venice, where Petrosinella, the ‘Rapunzel’ character, resides. Also living in Venice is Selena Leonelli, the sorceress who buys Petrosinella for ‘a handful of bitter greens,’ whose beautiful red hair inspires the artist Tiziano Vecelli (Titian.) For these reasons, Kate explained, the image of a beautiful young woman with tumbling red hair graces the cover of Bitter Greens.
Kate also told us that the novel spans two distinct historical periods — Renaissance Venice and 17th Century France, which both feature in the over design. Venice lies in the distance behind our mystreious red haired lady, while the beautiful scroll work at the edges of the cover is based on a traditional French wall-paper from the 17th century. The antiquity of the fairy-tale and the artistic essence of the novel is further echoed in the parchment- like quality of the sky above Venice.
“Looks as ancient as the fairy-tale,” according to Kate!
We also chatted to our book club members this month about how they feel about book covers. Opinions varied. Some people feel that the cover design has little to do with their reading choices, while others are very sensitive about the physical appearance of books they choose to read. One of our members chose books this month based entirely on their covers, and was pleasantly surprised with the new authors she discovered this way. (Personally, I love book covers, especially beautiful fantasy and historical ones, and I love adding new books to my shelves. So much so that I often purchase books I love in both print and e-book formats, so I can have the best of both worlds- my Kindle in my handbag, and shelves of beautiful books at home. Perfect!- Kelly)
Now, for our May reads….
The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy by Barbara Vine
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Follow the Money by Peter Corris
A Kingdom Beseiged by Raymond E. Feist
A Feast for Crows by George R.R Martin
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula by M. J. Trow
The Man Who Lives With Wolves by Shaun Ellis
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
Harvest (Hyddenworld 3) by William Horwood
Here and Now: Letters (2008- 2011) by Paul Auster and J.M Coetzee
Foe by J.M. Coetzee
Youth by J.M. Coetzee
Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles by David Thomson
Lost Voices by Christopher J. Koch
Affinity by Sarah Waters
London by Edward Rutherford
Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster
Journey to the Stone Country by Alex Miller
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce
Spies by Michael Frayn
An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel
What makes a good book? We decided it should be easy to read, use appropriate language to the setting and character, voice and point of view, have intriguing characters, a story that grips you and keeps you turning pages, and, as well as all that, have clarity, credibility and beauty. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?