Tag Archives: Ann Turnbull


I am obviously wrong. But I still have an opinion. It is mine, and it is not my intention to insult people. In the end a book is a book, and it’s the contents that really matter. Not the cover. If I don’t like the cover, it is the artist’s work I am complaining about. Not the author’s. Unless they are one and the same.

And whereas I’m mainly thinking of what might put me off buying or reading a book, the same could be said for the prospective reader whose taste in covers is the opposite to mine.

Until just the other week I was so certain of how right I am. Then Adèle Geras went and informed me that I was wrong about the new covers of Ann Turnbull’s Quaker books. (I thought the old ones were better.)

My main hang-ups are the covers featuring a girl’s face. I’m not anti-girl, or even anti-face, but if they don’t look like they’d be my friend at school – and they usually don’t – then I feel alienated. (I know. I’m no longer at school. But you never lose that sense of insecurity.) But if the face appeals to countless of young readers, then that’s good.

Celia Rees, Witch Child

The book which demonstrates this best is Witch Child by Celia Rees, which is a marvellous novel. I have always hated the cover. I understand it’s reckoned to be a perfect success. But it’s actually a book where I’d want to cover the book in brown paper. (And wouldn’t that lead to misunderstandings on the train!)

It’s the historical teen novel that I feel suffers the most from these girl-faced covers. The girls are modern girls, looking nothing like the period of the story within or even like the heroine. On the other hand, if she looks like a potential friend, you’ll want to read the book, won’t you?

More Bloody Horowitz

When I got Anthony Horowitz’s More Bloody Horowitz I thought it had a fantastic cover. So did the Resident IT Consultant, who as you will recall liked the book enough to want read it anew. But when I asked Daughter if it would make her read the book, she said it would do the opposite. And she’s a fan of Anthony’s.

Fem söker en skatt

Then there are the nostalgics. I used to love (still do) the Swedish cover of Five on a Treasure Island as it was in the early 1960s. I’d have wanted that book even had I not seen and loved the film first. I like the old British cover too.

You have the new-old nostalgic covers that can sell almost anything. At least to us old ones. Maybe today’s young readers only want modern pictures to describe their books, whatever they are about.

I like the new Harry Potter covers, despite having ‘grown up’ (yeah, right) on the original ones. Whereas my faithful commenter Cynical didn’t. Perhaps it was too early to redesign them?

How about the covers that look good enough to eat? Or to stroke or just generally slaver over? Those covers can never be wrong as far as looks are concerned. They might just be covering a story that you don’t like, of course. But at least the book looks lovely.

Perfect to caress and perfect to read, describe Debi Gliori’s Pure Dead series.

Velvet by Debi Gliori

For the most part, the covers don’t really matter, as long as they don’t prevent you from buying an extremely good book.

One of my childhood favourites, which I can no longer recall either the title of or its author, came with no cover. And no end. Ouch. It was ‘inherited’ from Eldest Cousin, who had presumably cut it out of a magazine, published in bits every week, to be collected in a Dickensian fashion. (No, she’s not that old.) Hence the lack of cover. And possibly also hence the lack of an end, whether she never got it, or it was lost. Still, it was a very good book. You could sort of imagine the end.

And as I finish this post I will endeavour to remind myself that I am not young. These books are not made for me, however much I like them, and make me forget myself. So my opinions are irrelevant. (I just wanted to share.)

With Friends

Having found that the two Ann Turnbull novels about Friends Will and Susanna are to be followed by a third, completing a trilogy, I felt the need to go back to the first two. They are the kinds of books you don’t forget. You might not remember the details, but the story stays with you.

What makes No Shame, No Fear and Forged in the Fire stand out so is the beautiful love story. But also the background to what today might be seen as a ‘mild form’ of religion, but which in the 17th century was an abomination which the authorities needed to stamp out.

That people as peaceful and normal as Quakers are should be seen as a threat, is something we need to remember today, when there are plenty of other goups of people which some of us fear enough to want to persecute. It’s as with many other things; if you exchange a word or a name for another, you suddenly see quite how wrong and unnecessary any such behaviour is. Hopefully, one day we’ll all have blended in.

No Shame, No Fear introduces us to Will and Susanna and their love for each other. Set in the Shropshire countryside, and in a small town in 1662, Susanna’s family are Friends, whereas Will’s father is a wealthy authority figure who opposes the illegal Friends. And when Will finds himself drawn to them it leads to their estrangement.

This is another story featuring strong women in history. Susanna goes to work for Mary, a professional woman and Friend, where she learns to read and write, and eventually to work in Mary’s printer’s workshop. Meanwhile, Friends are being thrown in jail for their beliefs, and Will and Susanna work together to make sure the children left behind are safe. And all this time Will’s father tries to extricate his son from what he sees as the arms of a calculating whore.

Three years later in Forged in the Fire Will is living and working in London, expecting Susanna to join him as soon as she is free from her apprenticeship with Mary. And that’s when the plague breaks out. When Susanna hears nothing for a long time, she sets off to London to find Will.

Things are not easy for them to begin with, and once they settle it’s time for the fire of London. The accounts of both the plague and of the fire are scary. It’s easy to shrug them off as awful things that happened a long time ago, but when your Friends are involved it feels different.

I can see the story’s hook, now that I know there is a third book on the way. Will’s and Susanna’s friends moved to America a few years earlier, and it’s what people did when they were persecuted for their faith or couldn’t make a living where they were. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Ann Turnbull, No Shame, No Fear

Ann Turnbull, Forged in the Fire

(A brief thought on book covers. The new trilogy will have new and matching covers. The two original covers were based on ‘real’ art, making them feel part of the story. The new ones look like all new book covers do. Are we scared of old things?)

Catalogue woes

When I received my first book catalogues from publishers I was childishly pleased. And I still am. Sometimes. I was talking to a book world friend a few weeks ago about a recently received annual catalogue, and remarking that for all the books it listed, I was only interested in one.

In a way that was good, because it eases the burden of how to find the time to read. But what upset me was the large number of romances. That’s the only word to describe what they are. My foreign youthful equivalents of Mills & Boon have now been replaced by books with dark covers depicting vampires and dystopias and the like.

One such book I can show an interest in. Several even, if they don’t all come at once. Except they do. The catalogue I have in mind had pages and pages of them, and when you see all the covers side by side, the similarities are more striking than when you see them on their own. Being a bit gaga I peer at every new book and wonder whether I’ve already seen it. But most likely it was just one of its mates, looking almost the same.

The books are OK. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading a few if I had nothing else to read. But like the Mills & Boons they are not really review material. Or at least, I don’t think so. I’d never have dreamt of reviewing a romance back when I consumed them, nor would I have looked for someone else’s review of them. You buy or borrow, read and discard.

But luckily there are other catalogues. Some are excellent and contain not only the new books soon to come, but list all the old books still available. And when they are good ones it makes you go a bit crazy, until you realise you can’t order half the back catalogue. You just don’t have the time.

And then there are the ones that list books to appear over the next few months. Like the Walker Books Seasonal Catalogue which just arrived. The cover is nice. It’s from the May lead title, and looks like something I’ll want to read. A war time Shirley Hughes novel. On past lots of picture books. Then comes a new Sonya Hartnett. At least I think it is. The blurb sounds a little like another one, but I’m sure it’s new.

After which I get to the first and second books in Ann Turnbull’s ‘epic Friends trilogy.’ Whoa! It is a trilogy? I didn’t know. If so, where is number three? Hang on, perhaps the first two are there to herald the arrival of the third?

More picture books, and then what might be the end of Helena Pielichaty’s Girls FC football books. Old Horowitz.

Yes! It is a trilogy! And I haven’t missed a thing, because here comes the ‘long-awaited conclusion’ of Ann’s Friends trilogy, Seeking Eden. Not now, obviously. In the summer. But at least I hadn’t lost my mind.

More novels, more picture books (if that is possible) and some Baker Street Boys, of which there are many. Anthony Read has been busy. I can almost cope with this. There are books I like the look of, ones I love the look of and some which look fine but that I will not have time for.

And then there are lists and catalogues from all the other publishers… As well as the non-existent lists from others. Detective work can be such fun.

Alice in love & war

How I needed this book! Ann Turnbull’s Alice in love & war is a good old-fashioned historical novel. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s not trying to be clever, or that it’s not got a message, but it’s an uncomplicated and enjoyable book.

It’s the time of the Civil War, which I personally seem to know best through The Three Musketeers, so no doubt I’ve got a somewhat strange idea of who were good or bad. On the other hand, it’s war, and you rarely have very good versus very bad. Both sides are both.

Unreliable charmers are always the same, however. Alice is only sixteen and very unhappy living with an abusive uncle, so it’s hardly surprising that she jumps straight into the arms of the charmer, who happens to be one of the King’s soldiers, passing by with the army. She decides to leave her uncle’s farm, and follow the army. This is a hard life, but she makes friends, and she belatedly learns about men.

There are some extremely horrific details of the war, more effective than any school lesson. Alice is lucky in that she can read and write, and she has some knowledge of healing. This means her fate is more fortunate than those of her best friends among the army followers, but she still goes trough some very bad times.

The way Ann has plotted the story means the reader gets to see both sides of this war, and hopefully will learn both that war is worth avoiding, as well as seeing that warring sides are never black and white.

It’s a lovely romantic story, while avoiding the pitfalls of everything going smoothly all the time.

Adventure blog

As I have been going on about the recent return of good, old fashioned adventure stories, it should come as no surprise that I have persuaded the Guardian to let me go on about them on their blog, too.

This is from, very early, this morning. Do have a look, and leave a comment, if only to tell me I’m all wrong.