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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Book Cover Highlights from 2023’s Booker Prize Longlist

By Megan Coote, Abbie Wright & Juliette Tulloch

The 2023 Booker Prize longlist was released on 1st August and full of strong contenders. So, for this issue, the cover evaluation team have selected their favourite cover designs to take a closer look at.

How to Build a Boat by Elaine Feeney

How to Build a Boat by Irish author Elaine Feeney is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy whose desire to create a perpetual motion machine transforms the lives of his teachers and brings together a community. The story is set on the West Coast of Ireland, all about love, loss, grief and belonging. The cover is tranquil and captivating; the turquoise sea against warm pink sand radiates a feeling of calm. A lone figure, representing protagonist Jamie, is rowing out to sea. The boat represents the titular boat which is Jamie’s main focus throughout the book but also has other less literal connections to the story’s themes. The ocean is vast, and Jamie is alone. During the story, he sometimes feels out of place and overwhelmed and so being alone in the ocean visually depicts that confusing feeling of being ‘lost at sea’. A boat setting out to sea also signifies the start of Jamie’s journey, both literally and metaphorically, making this design the perfect choice for a coming-of-age tale that’s about self-discovery and determination.

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein

Sarah Bernstein’s novel follows a woman who moves to a remote country to be her brother’s housekeeper. The story takes a sharp turn as a number of disturbing events take place, causing the local community to become suspicious of our protagonist.

I chose this book cover from the long list as it immediately alerts the potential reader of the novel's disturbing nature. The image of the dead bird highlights the themes of death and nature that are seen throughout the book. Additionally, the beige and yellow colour palette almost contrasts the dark nature of the image that is being presented. This could directly link to the idea that unusual things are happening in the otherwise boring country that the book is set in.

With the title and author name, the font style is definitely intentional, and the scrawled style suggests a sense of urgency and chaos. Additionally, the font is similar to how someone would write in a notebook or diary, and this directly links to the title and the idea of the plot revolving around a ‘study’.

Overall, the book cover presents a morbid but mellow tone that highlights the strange events taking place in Bernstein’s incredible novel.

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

Maroo’s debut novel Western Lane is an emotional coming-of-age story centred around eleven-year-old Gopi. After her mother dies, her father chooses to enlist her in a gruelling sports programme due to her flair for playing squash. From there the novel explores themes of sisterhood, grief and innocence with a backdrop of Lutton in the 80s. Picador’s edition of Maroo’s debut is a striking contrast to Farrar's, utilising photography and colour. The placement of the two girls curled up together is an obvious symbol of twins sharing their mother’s womb and of sisterly bonds. The mesmerising colours that encapsulate them, while they are stuck in black and white, demonstrates how they feel like it is them against the world, particularly in a time of family loss. It is refreshing to see more fiction books incorporating photography and it is clear that this cover captures the range of emotions felt by Gopi’s family.

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch follows Eilish, a mother living in Dublin, where society has collapsed, and the government is turning towards tyranny. After her husband is interrogated by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB), he disappears and leaves Eilish to fight to hold her family together during the war. This is Lynch’s fifth book, and the striking cover design encapsulates this novel’s intensity and emotion. The looming houses that are copies of one another, set with bright red windows and a red moon, mirror the anxiousness of the novel with the arrival of the newly formed secret Irish police. The jagged lines creating the paths divide the cover design, just as EIlish’s own family is slowly broken by the disappearance of two family members. The contrast of the colour palette draws attention to the small figures of Eilish’s family, trapped by the surrounding streets and the living nightmare that awaits them during the day and at night.

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