BOOK COVERS OCTOBER 10, 2013
I'm fairly honest about my Jane Austen snobbery. Nothing but the real, bona fide Miss Austen will do. Don't offer me Return to Pemberley, or Mr. Darcy's Happily Ever After, or Margaret Dashwood Takes a Groom. (I made these titles up, but they sound real, yes?) After all, most Jane Austen fan fiction hones in on the least interesting aspect of her novels, the romance (of which in reality there is very little, since Austen's protagonists spend the majority of their time in denial about their feelings or operating under false pretenses about the man they will eventally marry), while I crave the nuanced prose and wry commentary on women's desires.
But the cover for Jo Baker's new novel Longbourn, which is written from the point of view of the Bennett family's servants, might just be the thing that pulls me in to that world. There's no rapturous painted love scene or sweeping landscape a of country estate. The entire image is an exercise in subtlety. The colors are cool and serene. The cropped side profile of a maid just entering the scene smartly plays with the visibility of servants in Austen's fiction. Even the warm, chalky white font is wise in its spareness; only that lightly calligraphied "L" indictates any sort of frippery, while the rest of the title is plain and straightforward, a gentle nod to the contrasting lives of the domestics and the families they serve. In short, the cover takes its subject matter seriously, which makes me inclined to do so as well.
Hillary Kelly is the digital media editor of The New Republic. Follow @hillarykelly.