A picture is worth a thousand words–and I freely admit choosing my books (at least in part) by their covers. Some publishers’ services like
NetGalley even ask members to give book covers a thumbs up … or down. I’m drawn to book covers that don’t illustrate the book’s plot, but rather paint an impressionistic portrait of the book. So, for instance, the cover of Chris B Midwives’ shows a distant farm veiled in a blizzard–not a laboring momma or midwife in sight, nor any hint of the tragedy that the blizzard causes. And Iain Pears’ Stone’s Fall is all shadowed silhouette of a woman, without a mention that the story is about a the rise and fall of a wealthy businessman. But in the case of both of these titles, the jacket copy was straightforward.
But what I find intriguing? maddening? is a cover that provides a beautiful visual impression, but still leaves the reader clueless after reading the book’s blurb. The Girls by Lori Lansens is a perfect example. The cover is sweet: four feminine feet dangling from a dock into a pond covered in water lillies. The back description tells us the book is about “Rose and Ruby, sisters destined to live inseparably but blessed with distinct sensibilities that enrich and complicate their shared experiences …” and that readers will “find it hard to resist falling under [the girls’] spell.” So maybe a coming-of-age story about sisters growing up in rural America, right?
Except I also happened to know when I ordered the book that those girls were conjoined twins because I heard this review on NPR way back in 2006. I wonder still why the publisher wouldn’t at least allude to the girls’ condition on the book–either with cover art or back copy. And while the book isn’t in any way titillating, it is provocative. We come to admire Ruby and Rose’s spunk, but we also get a glimpse of their sex life and their death. It’s not for the faint of heart, and I wonder how many readers picked the book up … only to put it down after a hundred pages.
Cover art and story blurb are an odd couple–in order to entice readers into the book, their marriage must be balanced and nuanced, as well as forthright.
Just like all good marriages.