Love is strange. Love is beautiful. Love is dangerous. Love is never what you expect it to be. Here PENGUIN brings you the most seductive, inspiring and surprising writing on love in all its infinite variety.
This week is the third week of our Under the Covers feature, and I suppose sort of tying in with the whole bedroom suggestion of the feature, I’m going to pick on the Penguin Great Loves collection. These covers are absolutely stunning, and I struggle to actually read the books from fear of inflicting any damage to the aesthetic package. The collection focuses mostly on classical, romantic/erotic literature, and offsets the passion and emotion of each title with a subtle but suggestive cover, laden with symbolism. The covers for this collection have all been designed by David Pearson, a designer well known for his quirky, original designs. As well as benefiting from David’s unique insight and skill, some of the covers feature work by a range of illustrators. I love love LOVE all of these covers, but I’ve limited myself to featuring the following 6:
From top to bottom, left to right, the books are: Cures for Love, by Stendhal; Magnetism, by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Bodily Secrets, by William Trevor; The Women Who Got Away, by John Updike; The Kreutzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy; Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin; Eros Unbound, by Anais Nin; A Russian Affair, by Anton Chekhov.
I like that these covers don’t show you a scene or a character from the book – there’s a more creative interpretation at work here. Having not read all of the books, it’s tricky for me to guess at their meanings, though I do enjoy the puzzle that they present to the reader. It asks you to tease out the meaning, and to think a little bit more deeply about the themes entrenched in the text. The cover of A Russian Affair suggests an unraveling of sorts – a piece of material that has come apart and you can see the individual threads that compose the completed textile. There is a suggestion that what is once beautiful and complete has come undone, and the individual strands are revealed. I very much like the sparse use of colour in this collection, and this renders covers like Cures for Love much more diverting – it draws the eye with its use of black and purple. The colour reminds me of a chemical solution, diluting the suggestion of cells and stimulating the imagination. Coupled with the book’s title, the cover seems almost scientific, and asks the reader to think about the chemical nature of love and lust, as does the author. It implies research – a scientific approach to something emotional. I also enjoy the way that the designer compares the women in The Women Who Got Away to dandelion seeds. The cover image shows the seeds collected as though still part of a whole, though no stem connects them and they will disappear at a whisper of wind. They are tenuously gathered on the page, held together by the narrator’s recollection of them, but by nothing else.The cover hints at the delicacy and impermanence of memory, and I love this.
This isn’t simply a collection for a keen reader, it is also a work of art to be admired, cherished and gifted to the ones you love. You can buy the whole collection, or you can purchase each title individually for only £4.99 (the books are small, but I think they are totally worth this for the production and aesthetic value).