The Girls of Slender Means Book Cover

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark is about a group of women living in a somewhat run-down club in London at the end of World War II. The specific setting in place and time is really the point of the story, as the girls barter rations, look out on a city dotted with bomb sites, and navigate a changing world. My illustration depicts one such bombed-out building, while also foreshadowing later events of the book.

1191 1920 mo

Found in the Street Book Cover

Found in the Street revolves around a young woman, Elsie, who has recently moved to New York City. At the beginning of the book, Elsie is working as a waitress in a diner, where she makes the acquaintance of two men from the neighborhood. One is a lonely older man who tries to give her moral advice and develops an unhealthy obsession with her as she begins to avoid him. The other is a well-off, artistic married man, who introduces her to his family and friends, starting her life down a new path.

The primary plot device in this book is the lonely man following Elsie. For me, though, this book was really about everyone watching, and to some degree obsessing over, Elsie: the married man, his wife, Elsie’s new social circle, and eventually the public, when she becomes a fashion model.

This cover was sold and adapted for A. Gentry Madsen’s In Your Left Eye.

1191 1920 mo

The Woodlanders Book Cover

Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders is set in a small village in late 19th century England. The story centers around Grace, a young woman whose father is eager to see her raise her position in life.

The book addresses social mores about class and marriage, particularly demonstrating double standards between men and women. Despite her education and making a “good marriage,” Grace ends up humiliated, unhappy, and without recourse.

My cover was inspired by the idea of the vertical lines of trees as prison bars, representing Grace’s inability to escape her situation.

1191 1920 mo

The Glass Cell Book Cover

The Glass Cell by Patricia Highsmith is about a man who is wrongly imprisoned. Once released, he has trouble readjusting to his life due to both the traumatic experiences of prison and his growing suspicion that his wife has been having an affair with a lawyer who worked on his case.

The outward manifestation of the change that prison has inflicted on the protagonist is his thumbs. In the opening scene, shortly after entering prison, the protagonist is strung up by his thumbs by prison guards. This leaves him with deformed hands and constant pain (which he regulates with morphine, also distancing him from his former life).

The hands in this image can represent many aspects of the story at once. They can be the torture he experienced, and the resulting injury. But they can also be hands of a person communicating defense or surrender (read the book to see where these come in).

1191 1920 mo

Tropic Moon Book Cover

Tropic Moon is one of Georges Simenon’s “hard” or serious novels. Set in the 1930s, it tells the story of a young man named Joseph Timar who moves to the then-French-colony of Gabon for a job.

My first thoughts stemmed from the title and the time period: tropical imagery inspired by bold and colorful travel posters from that era. However, the book is really about disillusionment with those romantic, exoticized ideas of Africa; the protagonist even reflects on the contrast between what people at home probably imagine and reality.

The reality is drunk, listless, and rather hopeless. What sticks out in my mind when picturing Timar’s existence in Gabon is the oppressiveness of the sun. When Simenon describes Timar putting on his sun helmet and walking through deserted streets in overwhelming heat, it almost gives the impression that the sun is actually behind all his troubles.

While the travel poster idea didn’t fit, the question of how people “back home” formed conceptions of distant places did seem relevant to the novel. Instead I looked to a more subdued form, cheap postcards printed with plain black ink. Instead of an exotic scene, though, the image only shows a shadow – representing, of course, the force of the sun.

1191 1920 mo