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Cover Contrast: UK vs US

By Beccy Fish, Giulia Caparrelli, Maisie Jane Garvin and Juliette Tulloch


Choosing the perfect cover for a book is often what can make or break its success. Publishers concentrate their efforts to make the book appealing to its target audience and, typically, this involves designing different covers for different geographic markets. In this article, we compare UK and US covers of popular books and analyse the diverging design choices of each pair. Which one is your favourite?


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


Hanya Yanagihara’s heart-breaking novel A Little Life has recently been swept up by a new wave of readers. The emotional story follows four friends who find each other in their early days of college; Jude, Willem, JB and Malcom. Covering over forty years of friendship and love, particularly focused around the mysterious Jude, their dynamic shifts as their lives progress. The theme of pain, both mental and physical, which we encounter throughout the book is demonstrated on the US cover, presumably a photographic representation of Jude. Although sometimes unpopular amongst readers, the black and white realistic image articulates the dominant emotion of the complex character. The white typography compliments with a subtle contrast so we focus more on the image. The UK cover however is strikingly more minimalistic. The white background is sliced through with bold typography which reveals an apartment building, integrating elements of blue and red into the colour palette and representing the first and last sections of the novel, entitled “Lispenard Street”, which is the first apartment Jude and Willem share in college, illustrating their adolescent friendship which is referenced in the final pages.


Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell


The US and UK editions of Hamnet have been marketed differently through their cover, but both are reminiscent of the specific historical period in which the novel is set. The US version presents a pictorial depiction of the young Hamnet in a Renaissance painting style, using a sombre colour palette. A key element is the feather covering Hamnet's eyes –probably that of a falcon, such as the one his mother kept at her farm. The feather can both symbolise Hamnet’s death and burial ritual, as well as the quills his father, Shakespeare, used in his restless writing. The parchment-style design used for the title and author’s name hints at the importance of writing and the frequent exchange of letters in the novel. The UK cover follows a different approach, as it is typographical and much simpler in terms of the amount of elements used. Nonetheless, the result is elegant. The extensive use of gold foiling and the intricate floral and faunal decorations are suggestive of the ornamented letters found in illuminated manuscripts. Overall, the UK cover is more subtly evocative, whereas the US one adopts a more visual approach, but both give prominence to the homonym protagonist.


Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid


Taylor Jenkins Reid has taken the book market by storm with three of her novels gaining the New York Times Bestselling status. Daisy Jones and the Six is a firm favourite amongst fans with its unique narrative style and star-studded story. Following the rise and eventual break up of an iconic rock group and their beautiful lead singer in the 1970s, the book encapsulates each character’s life in the limelight. The difference in the UK and US covers is quite striking, with the Daisy Jones figure on the front emitting completely different vibes. On the US edition, we see only the face of the woman which radiates seductiveness as she adorns a red lips and wild hair, the perfect rockstar. The UK cover forgoes the woman’s face for her body and seems to portray Daisy Jones as a hippie, with flowing skirts and long auburn hair. It is rather paradoxical. Comparing the two does allow us to see the contrasting sides of the eponymous character's personality that is evident within the story.


This One Sky Day by Leone Ross


Leone Ross’s This One Sky Day, also known as Popisho, is described by Faber as “A sensual meditation on the nature of love and addiction, this dazzling and incisive novel satirises postcolonial society and celebrates oddness.” The bold and vivid cover design of both of these covers reflects the magical realism at play within the archipelago of Popisho. Written around one particular day, Ross invites us to follow two star-crossed lovers and the mysterious gifts given to each inhabitant, known as “cors”. The decision to use “Popipsho” (Jamaican slang for foolishness) as the US title, embraces the author's heritage and inspiration behind her writing, while the figures within the water continue themes of erotica and absurdity within the novel. Haley Wall illustrated the US version, an artist who focuses on the resilience of marginalised communities and the human form within her work. In contrast, the UK version focuses on the title, in front of a textured background that is vibrant yet blurred, reflecting the complex nature of Ross’s imagination.


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