Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A thing of beauty

When Julian Barnes won the Booker prize, The Guardian told how in his speech he thanked the designer of his book's cover, Suzanne Dean. And this was noted as unusual, amidst the traditional agent and editor thanks. The piece went on to talk about how in our increasingly digitally-driven world, making tangible books look beautiful, as desirable items to have and to hold and to keep on a bookshelf reminding us who we are and what we love, is more vital than ever.

Thanks to my publisher Headline, The Book of Summers is a visual and material treat. For starters it's in hardback, something I never presumed as a given. It has proper weight to it, and the pages are a deliciously creamy hue. When I run my fingers over the cover the finish is beautifully matt. All in all, there's nothing flimsy about its presence; it proclaims itself as a book to keep. The cover and endpapers, designed by the very talented Yeti Lambregts, are gorgeous. Morning Glory flowers, picked out in gold, trail across a perfect sky blue background, twining the letters of the title, creeping on to the spine. Look closely and there's a smudgey, painterly touch to this same blue. The effect is elegant, refined, and evocative of summer days, while not sending our minds in too particular a direction. Inside, the flowers continue in antiqued styling, and the page appears pre-loved, with the creases and blemishes of time. Polaroids are taped in, just like in The Book of Summers of the story. It's a delicate and lovely piece of design.

Here, Yeti explains the different stages the book went through on its design journey:

Many of us judge a book by its cover - or form a first impression, at least. I was delighted to see the cover art celebrated on the 'creative living' site Jackie Magpie, as one of 'a treasure trove of fictional gems.' Elsewhere online, it was interesting to see some debate (and a lovely review) on the blog Dog Ear Discs, suggesting that some male readers might be turned off by the outward prettiness of The Book of Summers. Perhaps idealistically, I always hope that would-be readers will stick around long enough to browse the opening lines, or jump-flick to random pages, maybe not getting the full story but at least enough of it to decide whether they think a book's for them or not. All I know is that on the eve of Publication Day, I couldn't be happier with how my novel looks. On this last day of February, the sun showed its face for a while this afternoon and finally it felt like spring. But it's cold again now, and we're heading towards the bleary evening. Yet here I am, holding The Book of Summers in my hand, admiring the beauty of its cover design, the care with which it's been printed and made, and I'm basking. It's as if we're skipping seasons, as if summer has arrived and for a while at least, is here to stay.