A tale of two covers

I judge books by their covers. I admit it. That’s what a cover is for. It’s an advertisement for the book. Other than that, however, I don’t give much thought to book covers. At least, I didn’t until I got a look at the two covers for Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest

This is the first cover I saw:

It’s menacing and interesting. The human in the bed in the tiger’s mouth looks terribly vulnerable. This is the second cover I saw, the Australian edition:

It strikes a completely different tone. The style, the brighter colors, and the fact that you can only see the tiger’s paw makes it less threatening somehow. Sure, you wouldn’t want a tiger creeping into your house. But this version doesn’t scream “Doom!” the way the American edition does.

When I saw both covers together, it got me to thinking how the covers shaped my expectations of The Night Guest. I’ll never know what my impression would have been if I’d only seen the Australian cover. You might argue and remind me that there’s only one text. I would counter, as a good English major would, that a single text can support multiple interpretations. I know that I found Frida Young to be a menacing character right off the bat. I didn’t associate her with the tiger, per se, but I did recognize her as a threat to our protagonist, Ruth. Would a less overtly frightening cover allow me to be gulled by Frida as Ruth was? It’s an interesting, but unanswerable question.


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