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Part 2: Evaluating the Women's Prize Longlist by their Book Covers

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


Following on from our last issue, we have delved into the last eight book covers of the amazing titles longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022.


The Exhibitionist


Mendelson’s fifth novel centres around the Hanrahan family and a looming art exhibition by the egotist Ray Hanrahan, whose children and wife Lucia reveal some well-kept secrets. The vibrant cover design captures the dysfunctional nature of the family, the flowers and fruit bursting out of the windows no doubt a nod to their bid for freedom and to reveal their intentions. The small snake foreshadows deception within this family reunion, which is surrounded by a hazy orange background, as if painted on a canvas.


This One Sky Day


After our article Cover Contrast: UK vs US, we are excited to see Ross’s mesmerising This One Sky Day has been longlisted for the Women's Prize. Her third novel focuses on a single day on the island Popisho, where each inhabitant wakes to find they have received a magical gift. This cover design is the latest paperback edition from Faber & Faber, which differs greatly from its hardback sibling. A calming photograph of a vibrant beach is invaded by the all-encompassing title, with the carefully positioned reviews framing it. The electric pink that reflects into the sea is a nod to the changing sky and the romance that leads this story.


The Book of Form and Emptiness


Benny hears the voices of objects after the death of his father and the voices become overwhelming after his mother develops a hoarding problem. In the refuge of a library, he begins to find his own voice with the help of a street artist and homeless philosopher. One of the more reserved covers, with a duller beige background, possibly referencing the connotations of emptiness, as the only pop of contrast comes from Ozeki’s name. The small title in the centre is lost amongst the jumbled letters, signifying the clamouring voices that surround Benny, with the flipped letters in the lower third demonstrating his disorganised mind.


Salt Lick


With water beginning to minimise the borders of Britain, and pushing residents into the city, the countryside is left empty leaving the animals to wander freely. Jesse, Lee, and Isolde journey through the new landscape of Britain, each individually searching for something. Another more minimalist style cover but carefully conveying the tone of the novel. The muted brown palette suggests the sadness and loneliness of searching, and the more rural environment of the countryside. The silhouette of the animals is used to emphasise this, but their position in the foreground highlights their importance.


Great Circle


Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle charts the lives of two women: Marian Graves, a 1950s aviator who disappeared during one of her trips around the world and Hadley Baxter, a contemporary Hollywood actress starring in a biopic about Graves. Weaving historical fiction with a modern narrative, the novel spans an entire century and the globe. The cover is a celebration of aviation, freedom, and the desire to circumnavigate the world. Featuring a plane cutting through dazzlingly pink sunset clouds and a bold white typeface, it evokes the adventurous spirit of the novel and the independence of the protagonists, who proudly soar above the limitations of their society.


Creatures of Passage


Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé is rich in fantasy elements, darkness and family bonds. Set in Washington, DC in the 1970s, it follows the unusual life of Nephthys, a grieving taxi driver in a haunted vehicle. Stories from past and future merge together to create a spellbinding tale about loss, death, revenge and love. The cover is rich in references: the white tower is the Washington Monument; the river, called Anacostia River in the novel, probably an allusion to river Acheron from Hades; the rising sun a potential hint to Horus, Nephthys’ father but also a sky god in Egyptian mythology. The modern illustrations ground this novel in a contemporary setting, evoking an eerie feeling of desolation.


The Paper Palace


Published in the summer of 2021, The Paper Palace is a page turning dark romance that focuses on the push and pulls of desire and family crimes. The story follows fifty-year-old Elle over the span of twenty-four hours after she spends a passionate night with her childhood love. The hardback cover design which matches the colour of off-white paper, seems to represent how easily life can be ripped apart by the decision of one person.


The Sentence


Louise Edrich is already an award-winning writer, with the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award to her name. Her newest novel, The Sentence is a haunting ghost story, beginning on All Souls Day 2019 and ending on that same day in 2020. The dark colours of the cover represent the heavier themes of grief, death and reckoning within the story. Whilst the close up of the bookshelf portrays the setting of the narrative which takes place within a bookstore.


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