Style Saturdays # 2: Emma Donoghue Books

Everyone should know by now how much of a sucker I am for historical fiction. Once upon a time I’ve been very prejudiced about this genre, but after a good few books, I was heart-and-soul smitten.

You can say that one thing about historical fiction novels that really repulses me would be the horrendous book covers done in fairly bad taste that holds and houses most of the books in the genre. Come on, you know what I’m talking about—there always has to be a man or a woman or both, and it is essential that either or both are dressed in dramatic yet skimpy clothing, and they should always be in provocative, sensual poses. Think silk nighties + majestic soap-opera hair flapping in the wind against the moonlight.

I’m not saying I am against these kind of book covers, but I am only saying these because I’ve seen books that managed to do better. Emma Donoghue’s historical fiction novels are just some of my favorite examples. Currently, I already own three books from her, one is the contemporary story Room and the remaining two pictured above. I’ve read Slammerkin earlier this year and loved it more than I thought I would. It has been a delightful surprise to have finished a period book in just a few days, and a lot of it has to do with Donoghue’s mastery of the engaging subject and controversial premise. It’s a very vividly-detailed read and the book cover complimented it perfectly. Sure, it’s still very much in tradition of provocative and skimpy clothing, but it worked, because the story is about a prostitute in the Victorian Era who sells herself to get money to buy beautiful dresses. Look at that cover and it will tell you right away that it is Prostitution and Fashion in a nutshell. Effective, right? Even the tagline of the book rocked it! It says: ‘Slammerkin (n.) loose dress, loose woman.’; The story in five spot-on words.

Life Mask is a lot more conventional in comparison but still lovely nonetheless. The picture pretty much suggests the glory and grandeur of the novel’s setting and backdrop. I haven’t read it yet, but the synopsis I have read at the back hints at scandals between important people in society, so it figures why the book design screams high drama. And the titular font, my dears, is fantastic not just to see but also to touch—it is embossed against the paperback so your fingertips can trace the outlines of the letters. Life Mask is very thick in page volume though, so I hope I get to finish it before the year ends.

I wish all historical fiction novels can learn from the art of these designs—the genre in itself might be dwelling in the past, but it oh-so-badly needed a revamp makeover with the book-cover department. It’s about time we bring on the style!


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