Monday, 11 July 2011

Breaking Down The Beginners

I'm currently halfway through Rebecca Wolff's much-praised first novel (after several poetry collections), The Beginners. It's a book I'm enjoying, though it has a few flaws: describing a dream on pages 1 and 2 is a risky start (I'm with Henry James -- "Tell a dream, lose a reader."), and it needs better editing (one character's clothes change mid-scene for no reason--see pages 3 and 24), but it's also pretty absorbing, packing a heady charge of summer heat, adolescent female sexuality and the ghosts of witchcraft.

The cover design is gorgeous; it's the work of Helen Yentus and Ben Wiseman.

You need to see it to get the full effect: it's a black-and-white engraving ('The Cat and the Fox' by Gustave Doré, an illustration for the fable by La Fontaine) overprinted in gold on a photograph by Nancy Honey--a photo which calls to mind both the dunking method for finding witches and the swimming sessions undertaken by the book's teenagers in their local reservoir (under which lie the ruins of three drowned towns). Click for much bigger versions of each.


Chasch said...

This strikes me as a very daring cover. It could've turned out awful because so many shitty covers employ bad photoshopping of two or more unrelated elements (like this one:

I do think I like this one, though. It's certainly intriguing, and not at all obvious.

Anonymous said...

Very Klimpt. I like it.

JRSM said...

Thanks, TDA. Chasch, that cover is not good--very romance-novel-by-numbers. But the Wolff cover works really well, and in the flesh it's gorgeous; the gold ink really is lovely.