A couple of months ago I read Katie Kitamura’s novel A Separation. I was impressed with Kitamura’s writing, and the way she wove her themes of absence and death, searching and frustration. I liked it so much, I decided to try to make a book cover for it.
Kitamura’s story is told by a female narrator, who is detached and opaque throughout. She and her husband have separated, although they’ve largely kept that fact to themselves. Her mother-in-law, unaware of their separation, asks the narrator to travel to Greece to locate her now-missing husband. She does so and finds a smoking, ruined landscape, destroyed by a fire a few months previous. Her husband is a ghostly presence, seemingly just out of reach. She always just misses him. I won’t say anything more (spoilers!), but I was intrigued by the images Kitamura described, of the blue, blue waters and the black, still-smoking hills, and of the husband’s ghostly presence.
The first one I did focused on Kitamura’s unforgettable Grecian landscape.
But that didn’t seem quite right. While it got the setting, I couldn’t get a sense of the dislocation and distance of the narrator: her strange, clinical detachment. I wanted a little…more. So I made one of the narrator. Kitamura made her a frustrating one, telling a story and then negating or qualifying in the next paragraph. She withholds, and is always turning away from other characters as well as her own feelings. I thought if she were on the cover, it should show her back, turned away, or even walking away, anything to avoid a confrontation.
But once I’d done that, I missed that sense of place, that ruined, smoky landscape. So I brought it back in combination with that frustrating narrator. I decided to focus on that ghostly husband. But once I’d done that, I was annoyed. Here was a story told by a woman, why was I erasing her to feature a man’s silhouette on the cover? She was, in her way, almost as absent as the husband. In the end, I think I like them as a set: equally missing from their own story.
Have you read the book? What do you think would make a good cover?