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lovely book covers from peter adlington

Updated: Feb 8, 2019

"Never judge a book by it's cover," is what we're always told. And I would agree - but sometimes book covers are just so great that you can't help but pick up that novel, knowing nothing about it, just because the design on the front really catches your eye. This was the case with myself and the book How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. I was guilty of wanting to buy the book purely based on the cover until I finally broke down and did it. It's actually a smashing read; I highly recommend it! But that's not what we're here for...


Later, I discovered that there were other novels by Matt Haig that had been recently redesigned to a very similar style, again appealing to me, so I just couldn't help myself from buying them. I'm not quite sure whether it was the lovely grainy gradients, use of banners, or clever imagery on the covers that appeals to me most, but as a set I can't help but feel they look beautiful. I love the simplicity of all of the covers and how they really do summarise the plot of each novel perfectly- without giving too much away, of course.

The How to Stop Time cover design is definitely still my favourite, but The Possession of Mr Cave's cover is certainly a close second. I am completely in love with the idea of the violin representing all of the key plot lines in the story- using the head as a streetlight (where the main protagonist witnesses his sons' death) really adds to the design. That's not to say that the violin strings representing the ties he has on his daughter, trying to control her as though she were a puppet, are not extremely clever either; I love this concept. Paired with the dark purple surrounding the image, a sense of depression, loneliness and despair is really brought forward, which again summarises the novel perfectly. The grainy gradients are used here, with more contrasting colours than the other covers- again creating a dark, shadowed atmosphere to the book. All of the elements work together to set this novel apart from Haig's others, reflecting the darker tone which lacks in his other novels.


The cover for The Dead Father's Club also does a great job of reflecting the novel inside. The book is written from the naive perspective of 11 year old Phillip; therefore being innocent in his outlook (at the start of the novel, at least). The cover does well to reflect the lack of realisation that Phillip has until the end of the novel; he doesn't understand how serious the situation or his own actions have become until it is too late. The cover lures the reader in, in the same way as the novel, as an almost magical story with ghosts and powers and such- and not taking poison, death or murder seriously. The juxtaposition of these elements is reflected in the cover through the use of bright colours and small silhouette of the child, contrasting the warning symbols of a skull on the bottle he sits beside. I especially love how the text is blurred and warped slightly by the bottle as the banner is behind it; this adds more interest and could even represent the confusion and lack of clarity that surrounds Phillip, as every character in the story lies to him.


The Last Family in England's design is probably my least favourite of the group. I really like the concept, the idea that the lead of Prince the dog holds the family together as they try to break apart throughout the novel, but somehow the implementation is lacking. From my point of view, the grainy gradient texture applied to the covers doesn't have the same effect for close up detail of characters in the same way as for inanimate objects. Prince seems kind of lifeless to me. Maybe the issue for me is that I really dislike being given an image of characters to follow; I like reading the novel and creating my own interpretation in my head, which the silhouettes used on the other covers allow for. In this case, I'm not given that opportunity. Aside from that, I really like the colour scheme creating a very autumnal feel, and that the banner is caught between two trees.

But of course I've left my favourite until last; How to Stop Time. I adore the symbolism in this cover; the sand in the hourglass has run out, reflecting the position of Tom, knowing that he is hundreds of years old but for some reason he is stuck alive. The silhouette of Tom gives the impression that he isn't fighting his way out of the hourglass because he doesn't care that he is imprisoned inside it. This definitely represents Tom feeling trapped in the modern day, grieving his long lost love and their daughter from 400 years prior, almost waiting to die. The relaxed but lonely feeling to the cover represents the perspective of Tom and how he doesn't really care for anything or anyone at the start of the novel, simply because he knows that he will lose anyone he cares for; reflected through the simplicity and emptiness of the cover. I also really appreciate the inclusion of the rose growing upwards, representing his lost love named Rose, and Tom's only companion for most of the novel- his dog, Abraham. I feel that this cover is executed in the most skilled way out of the whole set; I really love the colour scheme of blues mixed with yellow and red. The grainy texture applies best here too, due to the sand inside the hourglass and the texture of the glass itself shown through its highlights. The technique of blurring and warping the banner behind is used again here; which really gives the cover a tangible feeling. There also seems to be extra detail in the banner here too; with some blue reflections and added rules above and below the text. This cover feels the most polished and considered in the group.

The covers do work as a set though, too. I really like that each novel has its' own overarching icon and colour that symbolise it on the spine; making the spine a little more interesting than using just text alone, while making each novel instantly recognisable. I also appreciate that the banners are used again here, but it does irk me slightly that those redesigned after How to Stop Time's release have changed the banner format slightly; the banners now extend behind the Canongate logo, and are missing the rules above and below the text even though they appear on the front of all of the covers. These inconsistencies upset me slightly as a collector of these books (and as a graphic designer). Regardless, I love how the novels look altogether and I'm glad that the older novels have been given a redesign to match the very recognisable style established by How to Stop Time, as it was so popular. I presume that the redesign will have encouraged sales of the older novels (which is great, as they deserve more recognition!).

Upon further inspection, I found that the covers were designed by Peter Adlington, an art director at Canongate. Peter is responsible for some other really intriguing covers, such as the design for Cory Taylor's memoir, Dying. I feel extremely inspired by Adlington's work and will look to it if I am faced with a similar brief in future. That's all for this one!

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