Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cracking the code of the Sookie covers

Part 1: Covers 1-3

It's Sookie Stackhouse week here at the THRILLIONTH PAGE as we wait for our friend lisabea to stop drooling over the photos on her own blog long enough finish reading #8, From Dead to Worse so our joint review can finally happen.

While we're waiting, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the mysterious code of the covers in this fabulous series.

Much has been said about the relationship of the cover art to the romance plots. Non-Bill fans are known to fret over the appearance of Bill on the covers. Eric fans rejoiced when #4, Dead to the World, came out.

Many people assume - I myself did at one time - that the covers are a kind of preview for the plot of the book. However, I now suspect that these covers illustrate something more essential and abstract about Sookie's journey and her relationship with men.

Speculation about the significance of the covers started, obviously with book #1, Dead until Dark. Because clearly, Sookie and Bill are together on the cover, as they are in the plot. Sookie floats with Bill. Bill even seems to comfort or protect her, or at least warm her, because it is his cape that is around them both. In the story, however they both protected each other and in fact it was Sookie who first saved Bill's life, though he later saved hers. So why is it Bill warming and protecting Sookie? Does the cover say simply, Sookie is with Bill here, or does it suggest that Bill has an overblown sense of agency, of being the one in control? Or does it say something more sinister? Because why is he looking at her like that?

Living Dead in Dallas #2 This is one of the better Sookie books. Here, Sookie is with Bill, but he is trapped in a casket. One could see it as a fanciful rendering of the plane ride to Dallas (Bill has to ride in his coffin), but I think the meaning goes much deeper than that.

This is where Bill lost some of his standing with Sookie, and certainly this reader. Bill is present, but he is trapped in his vampireness. For example, Bill's riding in a coffin sort of emasculated him, and it certainly robbed him of the ability to protect Sookie from a minor incident at the airport. This would never happen with Eric. Eric's vampireness never seems to slow him down or diminish his power.

Club Dead, #3 - This is one of my favorites, because it's the major Alcide book, and Eric is great in it, too. Why, then, is Bill featured on the cover? An excellent question!

Please, allow me to draw your attention to the drawing of Sookie herself. Look how well she's drawn, and how hot she looks compared to her image on the other two books (and certainly later books!) where she just looks somewhat plain and even childish. The hot Sookie dances with Bill, wreathed in stars, which typically says 'dream imagery.'

To me, this cover is the first that truly bypasses the plot of the book and goes to the abstract heart. I look at this cover and it says to me, Bill waltzing lovely Sookie, showing her a good time for once...that is a dream. Because the reality is that Sookie is down there in that bar having a good time with Alcide. Maybe Sookie is at her best and most mature and beautiful when she is not with Bill. Alcide is pictured as a wolf, down below, howling. With his keen wolf instincts, he knows what he sees in the sky is not right, and it can never be real.

What do you think? Further observations welcome!

Next Sookie post: Covers 4-8
After that: Observations on Sookie's wardrobe


lisabea said...


I will say to you, friend, what I say to KB...YES I am (sorta lying when I say that I am) reading!!!

omg. I need to read.

Hey, great post.

Sarah said...

Very interesting. I shall have to have a further think. These are some of my favorite covers for books.

Sometimes when we get them here in the antipodes they are budget and minus the glittery bits. For shame bad budgety publishers!

Cannot wait to read it!

Wendy said...

The Club Dead cover is one of my favorites, too!

Christine said...

CarolynJean you are so good at this kind of insightful thought provoking stuff. I love reading posts like this even if I haven't read the books yet.
Which I haven't.
I have the first four books on my TBR shelf, though. That's better than nothing, right?

I love all the Sookie covers.
The one with the tiger on it is one of my favorites. Sookie's dress is sparkly, I think? And the newest release is gorgeous with the red. Total eye popper.

I'm getting ahead of you here. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of these books, but have been planning to eventually ever since they were recommended by Alexis Morgan at the PNWA conference last summer. I see that Sookie has a number of men in her life. She isn't like a certain over-sexed heroine *coughanitablakecough* is she?

Covers, sadly, have nothing to do with the plot. But they are fun to analyze, aren't they? I would LOVE to be a book cover designer. Maybe in my next life.

lisabea said...


Eric. Eric. Eric.

::pumps fist in the air::

Christine said...

The tiger is a character I take it? And I just made a Sookie match-making blunder? Ooopsie.

Maybe I should just read them instead of admiring the covers?

Carolyn Jean said...

I don't mind the tiger, actually. He's a tiger shifter, and a bit controversial as a boyfriend. as you can see from LB. You might like this series!!

Ciara: She is not at all like Anita in that way. She sort of does serial monogamy, but lots of guys don't like her, too.

LB: tiger tiger

Wendy: yay club dead

Sarah: You get them late, bad covers. What is up! That is just terrible!

Renee said...

Great post! Can't wait for your thoughts on the most recent one.
Charlaine Harris has a link to Lisa Desimini's (the artist) site. http://www.lisadesimini.com/jackets.html
You can scroll thru to see nice images the CH's covers as well as others.
As much as I love Eric, I have to admit a soft spot for Quinn, and the tiger cover is gorgeous!