I can’t be the only person to have noticed a trend favouring a certain type of book cover lately, particularly with historical fiction. Bright vivid colours, with intricate detail, these really are gorgeous. I’ve always been a cover tart and an attractive cover will always entice me to investigate the book further. Here are some that I’ve come across in the last few months and after reading the description they have gone straight onto my wishlist (four of these 2018 releases I already have on my TBR, having bought three):
The Dollmaker – Nina Allan (to be published by Riverrun in March 2019)
INFORMATION WANTED ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF DOLLMAKER EWA CHAPLIN AND/OR FRIENDSHIP, CORRESPONDENCE. PLEASE REPLY TO: BRAMBER WINTERS.
Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive, but graceful, unique and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.
Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.
On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin – potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice – to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.
A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own . . .
Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield (to be published by Doubleday in January 2019)
A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.
Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
Or can it be explained by science?
An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.
The Binding – Bridget Collins (published by The Borough Press in January 2019)
Imagine you could erase your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.
Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.
He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.
In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.
Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.
THE BINDING is an unforgettable, magical novel: a boundary-defying love story and a unique literary event.
Blackberry and Wild Rose – Sonia Velton (to be published by Quercus in January 2019)
For fans of Jessie Burton and Tracy Chevalier, a rich historical debut set among the Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields in the late 18th century.
WHEN ESTHER THOREL, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.
INSIDE THE THORELS’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.
IT IS SILK that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.
THE PRICE OF a piece of silk may prove more than either is able to pay.
The Familiars – Stacey Halls (to be published by Zaffre in February 2019)
To save her child, she will trust a stranger. To protect a secret, she must risk her life…
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.
As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
Things Bright and Beautiful – Anbara Salam (published by Penguin in April 2018)
When Bea Hanlon follows her preacher husband Max to a remote island in the Pacific, she soon sees that their mission will bring anything but salvation…
Advent Island is a place beyond the reaches of Bea’s most fitful imaginings. It’s not just the rats and the hordes of mosquitos and the weevils in the powdered milk. Past the confines of their stuffy little house, amidst the damp and the dust and the sweltering heat, rumours are spreading of devil chasers who roam the island on the hunt for evil spirits. And then there are the noises from the church at night.
Yet, to the amusement of the locals and the bafflement of her husband, Bea gradually adapts to life on the island. But with the dreadful events heralded by the arrival of an unexpected, wildly irritating and always-humming house guest, Advent Island becomes a hostile place once again. And before long, trapped in the jungle and in the growing fever of her husband’s insanity, Bea finds herself fighting for her freedom, and for her life.
The Poison Bed – E C Fremantle (published by Penguin in June 2018)
Robert and Frances Carr are imprisoned, accused of murder.
Their friend and confidante Thomas Overbury is dead.
And they both have a motive for killing him . . .
Frances, rescued from an abusive marriage, is determined to make a new life for herself . . . and will stop at nothing and no one to make sure she does.
Robert is now one of the most powerful men in the land. But to get to the top he couldn’t help but make enemies.
One of them did it.
Because one of them will pay with their life.
Wrecker – Noel O’Reilly (published by HQ July 2018)
A powerful debut exploring the dark side of Cornwall – the wrecking and the drowned sailors – where poverty drove villagers to dark deeds…
Shipwrecks are part of life in the remote village of Porthmorvoren, Cornwall. And as the sea washes the bodies of the drowned onto the beach, it also brings treasures: barrels of liquor, exotic fruit, the chance to lift a fine pair of boots from a corpse, maybe even a jewel or two.
When, after a fierce storm, Mary Blight rescues a man half-dead from the sea, she ignores the whispers of her neighbours and carries him home to nurse better. Gideon Stone is a Methodist minister from Newlyn, a married man. Touched by Mary’s sacrifice and horrified by the superstitions and pagan beliefs the villagers cling to, Gideon sets out to bring light and salvation to Porthmorvoren by building a chapel on the hill.
But the village has many secrets and not everyone wants to be saved. As Mary and Gideon find themselves increasingly drawn together, jealousy, rumour and suspicion is rife. Gideon has demons of his own to face, and soon Mary’s enemies are plotting against her…
Gripping, beautifully written and utterly beguiling, Noel O’Reilly’s debut WRECKER is a story of love, injustice, superstition and salvation, set against Cornwall’s dark past.
The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas (published by Head of Zeus August 2018)
Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…
Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…
When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell (published by Raven Books April 2018)
Winner of the W H Smith Thumping Good Read Award
As featured on the Radio 2 Book Club and the Zoe Ball ITV Book Club
‘[An] extraordinary, memorable and truly haunting book’ Jojo Moyes
‘[It] shone, for originality for the sheer quality of the writing, the characters and some masterly chills’ Peter James
Some doors are locked for a reason…
Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…
Do you buy a book based on the cover and would any of these appeal to you? Do let me know in the comments if you have spotted any other similar covers that I’ve missed.