Book Cover ~ Sense and Sensiblity

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen, Pocket Penguin Classics, 2006

Well it was bound to happen at some point. The day would come when I would mention Jane Austen.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but, as a woman who writes about books and literature, I find it incredibly dangerous to talk about Jane. It’ s always difficult to know which approach to take: should I play the ‘you’ve-got-to-admit-Darcy-is-wonderful’ card? Or I could use the ‘her-books-are-actually-a lot-deeper-than-you-think’ angle, or even ‘I-bet-you-don’t-even-know-that-she’s-written-more-than-six-novels-you-amateur’?

So I will circumvent the issue by talking about this fine collection of covers Penguin has recently made for Austen’s novels. I like that they break away from the traditional covers that are all too frozen in their 19th century paintings to offer a new angle from which to approach the book.

The covers drawn by Kazuko Nomoto are both very modern through their ethereal quality and clear lines yet also nostalgically romantic through their pastel colours and fine contours. The texture of the ink and the unfinished lines of the illustration bring depth to the composition but also turn it into more of a suggestion than an affirmation of a drawing.

In that sense, the illustration is closer to Austen’s notoriously nuanced, measured style. Everything is hinted at in little touches, little spots of ink that take on different hues, denoting contrasting yet also complementary meanings. Thus, these covers’ minimalist aesthetic is a nice change from the usually stuffy and repetitive portraits displayed on the cover.

That being said, Austen does have an incredibly dry sense of humour that deserves to be admired. Romantic moments oozing with sentimentality are only an exaggerated interpretation of an author who is most eloquent through what she chooses to leave out yet who is not afraid to say what she means without coating it with sugar. Plus, she never takes herself or her characters seriously. And we can certainly all learn from that.

There. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist.

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