Sunday, 10 February 2013

Judging Dr Zhivago by its Cover

I'm currently reading Pasternak's wonderwork, and thoroughly loving it.  As with so many modern classics, it's had its fair share of cover designs.  Here are a few - which do you like best and why?

First up, the one you find reduced in places that shouldn't really sell books, like HMV.  It's an ok cover, does what it needs to, and I quite like the fact that it focuses on the war aspect rather than the love story.  I also like the colours - it brings out the historical side, the 'Reds vs Whites'.  The cynical me, however, thinks maybe this is the boys' cover?

Next up, the version I have.  Simple, modern, computer created, part of the Vintage series, into which it fits nicely.  I have to admit I like the simplicity of this design.

I find this next one rather bland.  I can't say I'd even notice it on a table of 3 for 2s.  It tells me very little about the type of book this is, except that it's probably hard going yet worthy.

This fourth is my personal favourite.  It's been carefully and thoughtfully created, and speaks to me of the Russian Constructivist movement.  As well as being eyecatching, it tells me this book is political, important.  The face - presumably Lara - is taken straight from propagandist architecture of the Stalin period; this is Russian all over, and I love it.

I like the sixties-ness of the next one, although it hints at content of a Middle-Eastern flavour rather than Russian.  The colours are also interesting - browns are the one pallet I would not have associated with Dr Zhivago.

And finally, this wonderfully hideous pulp seventies design.  Clearly meant to evoke the David Lean film without paying for the rights to images of Omar Sharif et al, it manages to turn a novel of profound social importance into Mills and Boon style trash.  Kitsch, or just sinful?

Ethan Frome

Every winter, the list of snow-set books that I haven't read yet diminishes; this is fairly self evident, as the more I read, the fewer there are to read.  Ethan Frome has long been on the list, but is no more, as I made it my first read of 2013.

It has immediately entered my Top Ten classics with a bullet.  What a beautiful, heartrending little story!  It is, simply, the tale of  a love affair that cannot be, set deep in a turn of the century Massachusetts winter.  It's a gorgeous snowglobe of a tale, perfectly self-contained, with an impending air of tragedy from the very beginning.  Wharton draws her main characters so thoroughly and subtley that once met, they will never leave you.  Even now, my stomach lurches as I think of poor Mattie, and of the unecessary horror that is the way Ethan's life turns out, and I have an overwelming urge to re-write the ending!

I would recommend taking the few evenings it needs to read this novella - it is truly one that will enrich your life.