Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Nevil Shute’s books. Last week I featured A Town Like Alice on my Friday Face-off, which reminded me just how much I loved his books. I’ve gone for the older covers, though there are lots of options for each of these titles. I absolutely loved Requiem for Wren, which I cried buckets over, and In the Wet (published in 1953) which goes forward in time to 1983 – and had nightmares about On the Beach. But I loved all his books. What about you – have you read any of these and if so, which are your favourites? And which of these covers do you like best?
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring ROMANCE covers. I’ve selected A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, which I read as a girl and absolutely loved. I know it’s not a classic love story – but if the hero actually gets himself crucified for the love of his life, that’s got to be romantic, right?
This cover, produced by Vintage Classics in September 2009 is one of the better ones, I think. I like the bright yellow which contrasts well with the black silhouette figures. The juxtaposition of Jean and Joe works really well and I think the Japanese guard in the background also gives a sense of threat. What I don’t like is the lack of contrast between the title font colour and the cover. The title disappears – in fact initially I thought the book was called Vintage Classics…
Published in August 1985 by Ballentine, this is an interesting cover. It looks as though the original was painted in watercolours, which gives an oddly insubstantial look to the hero and heroine. I did wonder if this was because the cover had faded over time, but there are several renditions of it on Goodreads, and they all have the same slightly transparent look to the figures. That said, I think it has a rather lovely charm all of its own.
This Kindle edition, published in January 2013 is my favourite. I’m guessing that it takes the image from an earlier publication – this book was originally published in 1950 and has been in print ever since – but I really like it. And yes – don’t faint, but I even like the textbox in this one, too. It doesn’t intrude on the powerful images of a very ragged Jean staring straight out at us, as if begging for help. With the terrible procession of women and children who were forced on a death march across Malaya in the background. The lettering really pops against the background and its styling gives a strong sense of the period in which the story is set.
Published by Pan in 1968, this cover is so very nearly my favourite. The strong yellow background immediately draws the eye, giving a sense of the heat. I love the grouping of the characters, with Jean hunched and clearly in distress and the Japanese guard scowling in the background. The lettering is bold and clearly shows the title, even in thumbnail. So why isn’t this one my favourite? Because there is something a bit stagey and contrived about the way the woman is sitting forward, ensuring we get a good view of her cleavage.
This Dutch edition, published in 1952 by Zuid-Hollandsche Uitgeversmaatschappij, is a cover design inspired by the film of the book. And the Jean Paget looking anxiously over her shoulder is taken straight from the poster featuring Virginia McKenna. The problem with this one is that the textbox in this cover does rather squash the image. And the colours, given that this is set in a tropical country, are curiously cool, so don’t give a sense of the heat. So which one is your favourite?
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week I am electing to play my FREEBIE card, as today is the 75th Anniversary of V.E. Day. There were to be widespread celebrations throughout the country today – but we all know what happened to those plans… Nonetheless, I want to mark it by featuring a book by one of my all-time favourite authors – Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute. It broke my heart when I first read this book as a teenager, and it still holds a special place in my soul.
This offering was produced by Vintage Classics in September 2009. It has the advantage of at least being clear and with the styling, gives a flavour of the 1940s and as most of the action takes place in 1944, that is a plus. I also like the fact that her dog is featured on the cover. It isn’t my favourite, but it is at least a contender. There are some truly dreadful covers for this book, which I decided not to inflict upon you.
Published by William Morrow, this edition is listed under the US title The Breaking Wave. I’m guessing they changed the title, because it’s likely that Americans wouldn’t know that Wrens are the female branch of the Navy, though they didn’t get to serve on ships during combat alongside their male colleagues during WWII. This cover is my favourite. I love the styling and the artwork, which is spot on for the period – that duffle coat and hairstyle, for instance. And once again, we have Janet’s dog on the cover. This actually is taken from a scene in the book and is my favourite.
This edition, published in August 2010 by Vintage International, is a split cover, featuring a gun turret on a battleship (I think) in the upper half and a romantic moment between Janet and the love of her life, Bill, in the lower half. To be honest, I think this cover is a bit of a mess. I don’t know why the font had to be quite so large and blocky and blast across the artwork so intrusively – almost as if the designers are trying to cover it up.
This edition, published in June 2018 by Createspace, is a fairly typical self-published cover. It’s not dreadful, but it isn’t that brilliant either and that is clearly some random photo of the time, completely unrelated to the book. The font, in particular, lets it down as it all but disappears in thumbnail.
This edition, published by House of Stratus in July 2002, is another clumsy effort. I’m guessing in amongst the artful blurring and sparkles (goodness knows what that is supposed to represent) that Janet is in uniform and staring out to sea. I quite like the tones, but why on earth anyone thought it a good idea to use a wussy font like that to run right across the middle of the artwork, I can’t imagine. Needless to say, the title and Shute’s name are completely invisible in thumbnail. Has anyone else read this hauntingly beautiful book? And which cover is your favourite?
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is planes, so I’ve chosen Nevil Shute’s thriller No Highway.
This cover, produced by Vintage Classics in September 2009, is cool and retro. However, there’s such a thing as being too restrained and tasteful – could the title be less obtrusive? While it’s attractive, it isn’t eye-catching enough.
This paperback edition, produced in 1963 by Pan is more effective in depicting the tension that thrums through this novel. The fear on the man’s face is evident, even if this cover is clearly dated and of its time.
Published by Ace, this is another older cover full of drama and darkness. The crashed plane, the dark landscape and the chevron-shaped title and author name is attention-grabbing and links directly to the book’s content. This one is my favourite, despite its evident age.
This cover, produced by Ballantine, is another one full of drama with the plane evidently losing height and a mountain in the background looming menacingly. The prominence of the author’s name indicates that it was produced at the height of his popularity.
This Kindle edition, produced by Lion Books in May 2014 is another innocuous, well behaved effort that shows us a cloudscape from a plane seat. It is another cover that isn’t bothering to reach out to customers – a shame, really as it is a book that deserves to be read, like all his books. Which is your favourite?
Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
For a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer at loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of bloody revolution. The people have found their voice at last, the flags and barricades are rising…And the question for a policeman, an officer of the law, a defender of the peace, is: Are you with them, or are you against them?
Over this long-running quirky fantasy series, Pratchett adopted a number of other genres – and this was the one where he had a go at time travelling. Over his very prolific output, it is inevitable that the quality varies – but Night Watch is one I recall with great affection as a very moving read.
Time and Time Again by Ben Elton
It’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be. Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history. Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century? And, if so, could another single bullet save it?
Another time-travelling book with a fascinating premise and a really cool twist, although I didn’t exactly warm to the protagonist – see my review here.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
This is another plot-twister that takes the basic premise of time travelling and then plays games with it – and launches popular fantasy author Kate Griffin of the Matthew Swift series into her latest iteration as Claire North. See my review here.
In the Wet by Nevil Shute
It is the rainy season. Drunk and delirious, an old man lies dying in the Queensland bush. In his opium-hazed last hours, a priest finds his deserted shack and listens to his last words. Half-awake and half-dreaming the old man tells the story of an adventure set decades in the future, in a very different world…
This is with a classic unreliable narrator – after all, a dying, drugged man is bound to be rather dodgy when recollecting his part – and it is left up to the reader to decide whether he really has travelled forward in time… I first devoured it as a teenager, rereading it again in my thirties, which confirmed the power of the writing. If you get a chance to read it, do so. The great news is that Shute’s books are now available on Kindle.
The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Saga of the Pliocene Exile by Julian May
When a one-way time tunnel to Earth’s distant past, specifically six million B.C., was discovered by folks on the Galactic Milieu, every misfit for light-years around hurried to pass through it. Each sought his own brand of happiness. But none could have guessed what awaited them. Not even in a million years….
This amazing four book series takes epic science fiction/fantasy to a new level and plays all sorts of cool games with our history. I read this stunning series over twenty years ago and recall it with great affection. I also highly recommend the linked Galactic Milieu series, which is the prequel set in the future – I do love time travel books and the games they play with narrative chronology:)
Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes
Ben and Rachel Corder are sure they’re in for the longest, dullest summer ever, until they discover an underground vault at the bottom of their garden with an amazing secret inside – two children from the 1950s who have been asleep for decades. But waking up Freddy and Polly Emerson means unearthing the secrets that were buried with them. Why would their father leave them frozen? How is cryonic suspension even possible? Why doesn’t the world know about the process fifty years later? How will the Emersons ever fit into the 21st century world of cell phones and microwave dinners? And why does it feel like they’re all suddenly being followed?
This is another offering that is too cool, funny and clever to leave to the children – see my review here. I particularly loved the cultural differences between the two pairs of children which Sparkes beautifully highlights during this gripping story.