A really evocative book cover

Posted: January 10, 2012 in England, Historical

The first impression made by a book is the cover, and I still can’t understand why more effort does not go into the selection of some of them.

The plethora of recent publicity stickers with various allusions to Stieg Larsson, or The Killing, or Kurt Wallander, or Kenneth Branagh, or Sarah Lund’s jumper, show how little thought goes into the marketing of these books. Let’s just jump on the Nordic bandwagon seems to be the motto!

It is a real pleasure to receive a book in the post with a cover that is both evocative and relevant to the contents. This is the case with Aly Monroe’s new Peter Cotton espionage story Icelight [a positive review to follow in a few days] set during the very cold winter of 1947. [a freeze up that was repeated in 1963]

For those of us who experienced the bleak freezing fogs that affected London during the 1950s and 1960s the cover is spot on for bringing back less than fond memories of outside facilities, paraffin heaters, and horrible fish paste sandwiches served in freezing cold houses. But the clever photo is also enhanced by the subtitle below Icelight;

                              So who really won the war?

This was the question my parents’ generation, who had suffered so much through two world wars, must have asked themselves every day during those bleak years.   

  1. Maxine says:

    Very good analysis, Norman. I think that in many cases the cover designer has not read the book or even been given a synopsis, and as you say the marketing department just sticks on whatever they think the latest money trend is. This cover is evocative and thoughtful.

  2. Lauren says:

    It looks an interesting book. I have to confess, though, I have the visual imagination of a wet sock, and so I rarely notice covers unless they’re truly abominable (or fluorescant, like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series). What gets me annoyed is an inane blurb – that’s really what makes me buy.

    Will covers still continue to matter in the age of the Kindle, I wonder?

  3. kathy d. says:

    Nice cover. Good question on who really won the war.
    I have to much to read at home in piles and at the library in reserve and on my “to purchase” list that I can’t add more, unless Indridason or Camilleri or Paretsky comes out with a new book.

    But “fish paste sandwiches” kind of stopped me in my tracks. I know every country has its own culinary “delights,” but fish paste? The only way to eat fish is broiled or baked or grilled, or, if one cares not about cholesterol, fried. I can’t even think about this.

    Spam was bad enough when I was a kid. Liver spread was okay, not something I look for as an adult. But fish paste?

  4. Just a note to say I like the look of your blog (would have sent this in an email but there isn’t any contact info for your site) — really like the background. Well done. Makes me realise I have to do more work on my sites.

  5. Norman says:

    Maxine, this was a book that brought back a lot of memories. I must do a review.

    Lauren, one of the main selling points of the old vinyl LPs was the cover. Now we have downloads. I suspect that with sales moving to Kindle even less time and thought will go into designing covers.

    Kathy, my father told me that Jewish soldiers during WWII were given a dispensation by the Chief Rabbi to be allowed to “enjoy” spam as there was nothing else to eat.
    Apparently bloater paste part of Britain’s culinary history has been discontinued http://tgr.ph/iV5hcH

  6. Espionage – hardly a book for me, but I agree that the cover is excellent.

  7. kathy d. says:

    Espionage isn’t my genre of choice, but I can understand its intrigues. The cover is a good one, agreed.

    Interesting about Spam and Jewish soldiers during WWII. . We were served it for lunch while in elementary school. Also, were served tongue. When I was 11, I figured out about the tongue and its origins and I never ate it again. And I haven’t had Spam since either. I don’t think it’s eaten now, not even sure it’s produced. It could come back what with the recession and high jobless rate.
    Am very relieved to read that no elementary school children in Britain are eating fish paste today.

  8. Lauren says:

    Indeed, very interesting about Spam. Not something I thought to ask my grandfather while he was alive, alas. (Though he never served in Europe – as a refugee from Europe he wasn’t allowed to, and I suspect the food situation in Oz was rather better than the UK during the war.)

    It is a shame to think the art of the cover is in decline, but on the other hand, I’m really not exaggerating about my inability to distinguish one set of pastel blurs from another. You’d need Rembrandt to make me remember a non-pyschadelic title, and that’s pretty unlikely to happen.

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