Coming attractions

On my occasional jaunts to the cinema my eye is inevitably drawn to the movie posters, particularly to those advertised as Coming Attractions. An art form in themselves—quite apart from their function of selling the films they advertise—I’m always struck by their individuality as well as how they sit with each other, rarely clashing but mostly complimentary.

In like manner I’d like to share with you this picture of some recent book acquisitions, perhaps the first in an occasional series (if I can be fashed). Now I shall blather on a bit about design and about content, and if you can bear it feel free to join me.

First, the acquiring: three (M R Hall, Kate Atkinson and Eva Ibbotson) are all secondhand bargains from charity shops, in decent enough condition. Of the other three, the Rowling is a present from a daughter and the Atwood and Campbell are from the local indie bookshop. This is a fair indication of how fiction usually arrives on my shelves.

Second, the attraction. M R Hall is a local-ish author who has appeared at Crickhowell’s literary festival a couple or so times, so I shall be saving this novel to read and review for Dewithon, the Wales Readathon scheduled for March; Jen Campbell is best known for writing about bookshops and bookselling, but I was drawn to this title’s promise of fractured fairytales. Meanwhile, Atkinson and Ibbotson are two authors I’ve previously enjoyed but these two novels are new to me. And having already eyed up the paperback edition of the Harry Potter playscript it’s good to have been presented with a copy!

Third, the appearance. The Coroner has a suitably chilly blue design as suits a murder thriller, the enigmatic silhouette and no-nonsense typeface accentuating both mystery and officialdom. The warmth of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cover forms a striking contrast to the Hall title, the nested figure and corvid wings suggesting symbolism yet to be deciphered.

More symbolism is inherent in Hag-Seed, Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest with, I assume, Caliban’s eye staring out balefully. A Company of Swans is Ibbotson’s tale of a wartime ballerina now repackaged for the YA market (the tale, not the dancer!) as this much less menacing photo of soulful young woman emphasises.

The sepia-tinged photo of an open door on the cover of Behind the Scenes at the Museum is subtly hinting at long-hidden secrets, surely, while the stylised patterned heart that sits amidst flowers and fishes on the front of The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night alludes to some of the many themes in this collection of short stories. (A review of this collection is imminent, by the way; the other titles will have to wait their turn.)

If you’ve enjoyed this preview (and I know a lot of book bloggers make such previews a feature in their posts) then I might be tempted to make it a habit. Have you read any of these? Do you have an opinion on their appearance, attractiveness or how they should be acquired? By your responses I’ll know whether to subject you to more of the same in the future!

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40 thoughts on “Coming attractions

  1. I enjoy just looking at the cover for quite a while before I dip into it and also I sometimes just buy a book because of the cover, so many to read and just not enough time nowadays 😦 So yes please do some more post on them, especially enjoyed these 🙂

    1. We’re both quite visual people, so appearance does matter—when I have a choice of editions in front of me it’s the book design that often sways me more than the price or the editorial content—and, like you, I often don’t get round to reading it for some while. And thanks, one vote for more of these posts! 🙂

      1. Yes, its strange really, because if the cover hasn’t caught my imagination, the book inside is of no interest. I’m not sure that I have even read a book where the covered hasn’t grabbed me, even my tons of nonfiction all have wonderful covers……do we have a rare condition 🙂 🙂

        1. Thank goodness we’re blessed with colourful covers—can you imagine how dull it must have been in the days when hardbacks were uniform and indistinguishable one from another, or when coloured dust covers were so flimsy they fell apart after the first reading?!

          1. I remember at school, we use to write to the different printers and ask for book covers, which we always got……not something school children would do now….also for the life of me, I can’t remember what we did with them 🙂

  2. I did not enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but the cover of the Atwood novel seems very intriguing! I could go on and on about covers and why I always spend a lot of time looking at them, and why sometimes they do drive my decisions regarding reading the content (or not) 😉 but I only want to humbly point out that I really, really despise blurbs from other authors/reviewers on the covers. It somehow seems undignified, and unfair to the book – can’t it speak for itself instead of serving as a mobile advert board?

    1. I’m intrigued by the HP script, though I know it hasn’t appealed as widely as the novels. And this is the final version too, not the working script that was published in hardback, so perhaps rather more polished.

      I’m pleased cover designs matter to you too, and while I don’t mind secondhand books in a reasonable condition I really can’t abide tatty, dirty or falling-apart copies any more than poor designs.

      Blurbs? I don’t mind them, especially in the sense that they don’t affect my choice. If they’re obscure authors/reviewers they matter not a jot while quotes from famous names are usually judiciously chosen anyway, and who knows what caveats they might have originally included?

      1. Hmm, that may well be – although I did not appreciate the story, maybe the final version improves on the details at least.

        I like to have a nice, clean cover and the quotes seem to crowd it unnecessarily – especially if I don’t value the quoted author 😉

  3. These cover designs are all attractive. I think Behind the Scenes at the Museum is too drab for Kate Atkinson, though, she needs something more edgy. And A Company of Swans is too sweet and childish for a book that really does have a lot of adult content. The protagonist is nineteen, not twelve! Those are the two I’ve read; I wonder how the other four suit their contents?

    1. I’m unsurprised with what you say about the Ibbotson, Lory, as that’s precisely what I noted in my review (https://wp.me/s2oNj1-morning) of The Morning Gift. I’m looking forward to the Atkinson, though, especially after reading her latest.

      As for the others, the reviews I’ve seen of the Atwood suggest the plot is every bit as poisonous as the cover implies, while I can confirm that the quirky Jen Campbell cover definitely matches the contents!

  4. What a great haul. I’ve only read the Kate Atkinson, which is excellent. The rest sound interesting, particularly the Atwood. Will have to add them to my list for looking out for. I give you a thumbs up for this post. What a good idea.

    1. I’ve heard good things about the Atkinson, so am looking forward to it, and to the Atkinson. Thanks for the encouragement, I’ll give this approach another go in due course! 🙂

  5. I enjoyed this post and would like to see more of them. I hope you enjoy Hag-Seed; I read it before Christmas and thought it was fascinating – much more layered than a simple retelling. Behind the Scenes at the Museum is excellent too, although I don’t find that particular cover design very appealing. You’ve reminded me that I still haven’t read A Company of Swans – it’s been a few years since I last read anything by Eva Ibbotson but I do love her books.

    1. I’ve two or three other Ibbotsons also in the wings, but I’ve yet to try her specifically for children novels. I’m almost sure it was your Hag-Seed review I read and enjoyed, but I’d better check—certainly the layering of the theatre production was what drew me to it.

  6. Two of my favourite authors there — Attwood and Atkinson. Behind the Scenes at the Museum was the first book of hers I read and I adored it – one of those books where I wanted my mind erased afterwards just so I could read it all over again anew! The cover of this one is too drab, though – doesn’t reflect the story at all which is lively and full of quirky characters. Haven’t read The Hagseed, though now I really want to – that cover is very creepy, very me :). In fact, your only choice I’m not interested in reading is the JK Rowling one – sadly I was not bewitched by her prose while reading some of the HPs to my son, though I’d be interested to see what you make of the book.

    Covers are sooo important when buying a book – if the cover doesn’t draw me, if it isn’t quirky or dark or intriguing in some way, I’m unlikely to read the blurb and certain covers put me off picking up a book – I’m thinking obviously ‘chicklit’ (yes, I know, awful phrase, but you know what I mean), romantic or Fifty Shades type covers, all of which will have me running for the door.

    Love this post, Chris – great idea.

    1. Yes, it had crossed my mind that the Hag-Seed cover might appeal to you, Lynn! The Atkinson cover seems to have disappointed many though, so I’m interested to see what may have driven the publishers to go for this bland image—perhaps it was just a stock photo that some designer unimaginatively went for.

      I’m intending to reread the HP sequence some time—I think Rowling’s strength is more plotting than literary style—but I’m also intrigued to discover if the Robert Galbraith thrillers are as enthralling as the couple of tv adaptations I’ve watched or whether it’s the quality of acting instead that bewitches.

      Good book designers know their audience, and using a mix of their arcane arts and science they general know who will want to pick up what. Like your near namesake Lynne images matter to you, as your photo prompt-driven flash fiction proves, and though I’m not overly drawn by gory covers I do appreciate how covers are often well targeted to their readers. Like you, though, I’m averse to sentimental/romanticised packaging, repelled as if by the contrary magnetic pole.

      All in all, this approach seems to have received a thumbs-up so I shall repeat this exercise again at the next appropriate opportunity, thanks!

      1. I think you’re right about Rowling, at least in the HPs I’ve read. Fantastic ideas (which is why they made such successful films) but the prose in the early ones wasn’t amazing. Haven’t read any of the Robert Galbraith or seen the adaptations – do you have one of the books lined up to read?

        You’re right about cover designers – certain colours have become associated with certain genres and drive expectation of what’s inside. You wouldn’t package a thriller in a pastel coloured cover just as black is never seen on fluffy romance covers. They’re cliches, but it’s a shorthand that works.

        I’ll look forward to reading more posts like this, Chris

      1. Thank you! I was sick of seeing my ugly mug in the top right corner of things so thought it was time for a change. The other half says this new one is weird, so that’s endorsement enough 🙂

  7. “Behind the scenes at the museum” attracts me most. The title and cover seem to speak of quiet secrets. Also, I love museums. I really enjoyed this preview styled blog post. I especially enjoyed reading about how you got the books, from where and how you feel about them before reading.

    1. Another tick, thanks, Jo! Having only recently read an Atkinson novel I may not necessarily get to Behind the Scenes at the Museum in the near future but who knows, Que será, será!

  8. I really enjoyed this, actually! I’m curious what you’ll make of the Potter book…I…nope. Just nope. But I didn’t know about this Atwood take on The Tempest, which is one of my favorite Shakespeare experiences (seeing the play with my family at an outdoor theater. The last, I think. One of my dad’s favorite plays, too, and a fond memory of his both directing and acting in it for college.). So I shall look forward to hearing your perspective on these stories, and considering if I shall add them into my own TBR mountain. 🙂

    ,um hn7tbbt6 bfht

    Bash says hi 🙂

    1. Back at you, Bash! Thanks for the greetings! ✋

      Hope to read the Potter play before too long, Jean, so will give you my verdict then. Loved reading about your family’s experiences with The Tempest, you might enjoy my review of a study of the play and its background: https://wp.me/s2oNj1-prospero. It’s certainly a magical play, in all senses of the word!

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