Sunday, May 29, 2011

What In The Sam Hill????

Sometimes you have to just scratch your head and wonder What In The Hell Were They Thinking? Seriously. What kind of discussion went on at Penguin Publishing that made them decide that this hideous on every level, prime example of a 1970's advertisement for feminine hygiene products cover would be suitable for a novel about a seventeenth century trail brazing female naturalist? I ask you. Was it share the crack pipe day at Penguin?

"Umm...yeah. Have the model in a float-y dress that makes your average bridemaids' dress look fashinable and make her arrange her arms to suggest wings. Get it? That will look great. Oh and add a couple butterflies too"

You know, more that one person at Penguin saw this cover and gave it the okay. That is sad.

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain is based on the life of Eleanor Glanville. Eleanor was an intelligent, self taught entomologist. As you can guess from the title butterflies were her particular passion. At a time when other women, with the exception of the hundreds of women about whom historical novels are written, were managing households, working in the fields, raising children, illiterate and struggling to survive from season to season, the heiress Eleanor is making bad marriages, having a prodigious amounts of sex, concerned about the wetlands in Somerset and studying butterflies to the degree that some say she must be mad. It's a full day let me tell you.

The novel itself has some wonderful information about the early days of entomology, environmental studies, Puritanism and the politics of the period. It also has a quantity of actual bodice ripping and bodice ripping type drama. Mountain has a firm hand on the plot, has fully investigated her subject but in Lady of the Butterflies she hasn't found a balance between the heartfelt sharing of all that research and the fervent melodrama that surrounds her use of it.

 Knowing these very bare bones of the story you can see that the original cover for the hardcover is appealing and makes perfect sense. Why was it changed to the atrocity on the paperback? Not a clue my friends. I bought the hardcover of Lady of the Butterflies so that jacket image did it's job. There is nothing about the paperback cover that would even make me pick it up to look at.
Oh well.

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