The cover says it all


I had just wandered into Waterstone’s in Weston because I was ten minutes early for meeting a friend for coffee, and thought I would look at what new books there were on display; belonging to two reading groups I’m always on the look out for something to suggest for the next meeting, and as an avid reader and book lover it’s a good excuse to indulge myself! I glanced at a display of books on the shelves near the entrance and my eye was caught by this:

‘Four Gentlemen of High Rank Playing Primero’ by Master of the Countess of Warwick; supposedly Sir Frances Walsingham, William Cecil Lord Burleigh – and unseen in the picture, Lord Hunsdon and Sir Walter Raleigh

I usually read fiction rather than factual books, I’m more interested in prehistory or Dark Age history…. and yet I was drawn by this cover. It was something about the knowing gaze of the man about to play his card, and the enigmatic yet subtly pleased expression of the other player. I picked up the book to look at the cover picture, not really interested in Elizabethan and Tudor history at all. The back of the book shows part of the rest of the painting  the cards held by one of the other players, shown to the viewer who in the days when it was painted would have understood the significance of the hand.

I opened the book and glanced at the first page which set the scene for the rest of the book, the court of Queen Elizabeth I and the espionage and secret security of the kingdom. As I mentioned  I’m not interested in the Tudors at all… and ten pages later I’m still standing in Waterstone’s reading the book, ‘The Watchers’ by Stephen Alford.

The book is utterly gripping, it is so well written that my eyes just flew across the words as I was draw into another world, a world of mystery and intrigue, secrets and power and danger. And so, I have bought the book, and no doubt I will review it when I’ve finished reading it.

However, the point I’m making is this; if I hadn’t been drawn to the cover of the book I would never have picked it up. It was the picture, unobscured by the title, and it was the title itself.


  1. Ria

    People say don’t judge a book by its cover… but don’t we all. In fact I know a lot of books which I would have totally missed out on if I had taken after their awful covers and not the sparkling recommendations for them.


    1. Lois

      Me too! Some books just leap off the shelves and say ‘take me, read me, enjoy me!’ and others sit there all dreary and miserable… thank goodness for word of mouth and reviews!


    1. Lois

      It is so readable and yet full of detail; it explains everything so clearly and yet is not simplistic.
      I’m also reading ‘The Suspicions of Mr Wicher’ by Kate Summerscales – another fascinating story, but it is so complicated and her writing doesn’t flow as well as Stephen Alford’s. Still a good read, though – I think you and Will would enjoy it, Victorian mystery, a true story!


      1. loonyliterature

        Don’t let me put you off, after all it was a bestseller – although I have to say that lots of books which have had huge publicity drives do become bestsellers but don’t get read right through. Let me know how you get on.


      2. Lois

        I’m often put off by massive popularity and publicity… hence I have never read ‘Life of Pi’, ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, anything by iris Murdoch or the latest by Ian Mc Ewan… I’m probably missing out on some gems but I just get put off!


      3. loonyliterature

        I haven’t read the “Life of Pi” either but could not put The Time Traveller’s Wife” down, I had to finish it. I’ve read everything by Iris Murdoch but not for about twelve years so I’m on the verge of returning to them – I totally loved them the first time around, big time. I haven’t read the latest by Ian McEwan either but do love a lot of his stuff.


      4. Lois

        Still plodding through Mr Witcher… but if there are many more diversions into totally unrelated piles of historical research I might slip it to one side and read Mary Berry’s baking book instead!


      5. Lois

        Are you on Goodreads? I glanced at it before and lots of people thought as we do, but a few thought it was brilliant! It’s got three and a bit stars out of five


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