Dark materials

09Dec07

These magical and mysterious jacket illustrations by George Adamson for Alan Garner’s two children’s fantasy classics, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath give the four-shilling (in 1969, the back cover also carried the decimal equivalent, ’20p’) Puffin paperbacks I still own the richness of jewel-encrusted incunabula from a wizard’s study.

book jacket for Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
book cover for Puffin edition of Alan Garner's The Moon of Gomrath

Garner himself was delighted with the Weirdstone cover, commenting ‘I could not have hoped for the mood of the book to be better expressed. George Adamson has caught it exactly. Fenodyree is just as I imagined him and the eyes are the best part of the jacket.’ [Fenodyree is one of the main characters, a dwarf]

On re-reading the Weirdstone – accomplished with the same kind of voraciousness I remember giving it as a child: that not-wanting-to-stop feeling – I’m struck particularly by a couple of things. It’s quite a radical book. It doesn’t flinch from death, or darkness, or pain. Susan, one of the two central human characters, makes several decisive interventions, and is never made to shrink behind the other, male, characters – quite unusual, I would think, for a book written in the late 1950s. There’s a minor character, a stuffy local businessman, who turns out to be a spy for the forces of darkness – a small thing, but a reminder never to trust petty respectability. You never can tell. Philip Pullman is a big admirer of these books, and this, I’m sure, is one reason why. Then, Garner’s descriptions of the Cheshire landscape – the brooding hills, the torturous underground passages – make the natural environment a shaping force of the narrative. There’s something out there older, other, than us, and it affects what happens to us. It’s not a backdrop.

Now for Gomrath. I can’t wait.

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5 Responses to “Dark materials”

  1. Wow, great covers, thanks for sharing them. Just this afternoon we were discussing some of the artwork on old science-fiction books. These are just terrific.
    Here’s a list of most of Adamson’s book illustrations.

    Bruce from the bookshop blog.

  2. 2 Dave Lovely

    My pleasure, Bruce. I must say I was intrigued to learn that George Adamson was born in the Bronx… Thanks for reading.

  3. 3 Alan Garner

    With such an ornate title, I was not happy with the font. Times New Roman would have been better.

    Alan Garner.

  4. 4 Dave Lovely

    I think, as an 11-year-old I was not so bothered about fonts – I could probably only barely do ‘joined-up-writing’! – I’m sure it was Fenodyree’s stare against all the hazy blues and over that mysterious glowing cup that drew me to the book in the first place; and then I read the back of it, and maybe the first page or two… W. H. Smith in Coventry, probably, is where I bought it. At any rate, nearly 40 years later, it’s still a book that’s important to me. Thank you for that.

  5. 5 Gary

    I love this Moon of Gomrath cover mainly because its the one I read as child in the late 60s
    I would love if Colin and Susan went back to Alderley Edge and retraced their steps and were caught up in another adventure.

    If you are reading this Alan Garner I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to know waht became of them



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