Double Take Part II

I don’t really notice a lot of cover art. It took me several Sookie Stackhouse books to realize that the artwork actually gave away plot points. I’m pretty dense at times.

However, I have my first addition to the “Double Take” game, despite my lack of observational skills. When Kelly first added The Zookeeper’s Wife to her Goodreads list, I thought, “Oh, I’ve read that.” Then I skimmed the description and realized, “Um, this has nothing to do with gay Thatcher-ites living in London.”

Yes, I was foiled by the covers. Let’s examine.

Published first, the paperback version of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty.

The book art depicts a view of a white walkway in a wooded garden as seen through a close-up of a wrought-iron fence. For a book about a man who desperately wants to be part of a privileged London world, this is a fitting cover. Private gardens (and keeping people out of them) play a large role in this novel.

Then, the similar-but-not-quite-the-same cover of Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife.

I haven’t read this one yet, but from what I understand, Ackerman tells the story of Warsaw zookeepers who shelter Jews from the ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Notice the white walkway; the dark green of forests, the muted light; the curlicues of the iron bars. The photograph was taken from a different angle of a different fence, but the feel (and effect) of the cover bear a resemblance to The Line of Beauty. The superimposition of official documents underneath Diane Ackerman’s name also adds a different element to the cover, giving clues to the plot of the novel.

I prefer the Hollinghurst rendition, but only due to personal taste. I find myself photographing items from uncomfortably close angles, so the assymetry of the Hollinghurst cover appeals to my aesthetic. The Ackerman cover is a little too perfectly composed; I prefer photographs that are not centered. For both, though, I keep thinking back to the many snapshots I’ve taken over the years with the same subject matter. The idea of a gated pathway seems to be an almost ubiquitous allegory for things that we cannot have. It’s not surprising that this type of composition is striking.

Any other comments? We’d love to hear them.

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  1. says

    I read Line of Beauty in undergrad and the more we discussed it in class, the more I liked it. Really a book that gets better the more you think about it (and it helps to have other intelligent folks thinking about it with you). I’d never even thought about its cover art, but it’s perfect.

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