Wednesday Cover Story: Where would you find Barnard’s mansion?

A few days ago, reader John Milner from Essex, submitted this review about Mansion and Its Murder, by Robert Barnard and the following comment about the cover:

‘An enjoyable book, mainly as a result of the highly unusual life, personal and professional, given to the main character and narrator. A deft touch with the changing landscape of British life through the several decades between Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and the election of Attlee’s government, helps this somewhat Gothic tale along. But, a quibble! The Mansion of the title is an overblown, oversized, high Victorian monstrosity, the cover shows an attractive house – a manor perhaps but in no way a mansion. A building fitting the story would surely have produced a more intriguing cover?’

It is always difficult to find a photograph to use on a cover of a book which captures the contents of the book exactly.  A certain artistic licence is needed to allow for good design, and evoking the feel of the novel tends to override the literal depiction of it. (In fact, it’s not that rare to find a heroine’s hair has changed from brown to blonde on the cover, purely because the colouring worked better on a visual level.) On second inspection, I would agree that, yes, the residence does look reasonably attractive but my initial, and lasting impression, was that of a residence with an ominous air about it. And that is, arguably, the reaction the designer was looking to achieve.

I must admit I am not entirely sure what the difference actually is between a manor and a mansion and dictionary seems to suggest both words are interchangeable. However, the comment did make me ponder as to where one would actually find the likes of ‘an overblown, oversized, high Victorian monstrosity,’ as featured in the book and described, quite wonderfully, by Mr Milner.

And suddenly I thought of Selsdon Park Hotel. I found myself playing a round of golf there a few weeks ago (if my dismal performance can actually be called ‘playing a round of golf’) and the hotel (formerly known as Selsdon Mansion) is certainly of monstrous proportions. Described as built in a  Victorian Renaissance architectural style, perhaps this would have been a better example of Barnard’s vision.

Of course we couldn’t actually use this on the cover as, no doubt, an eagle-eyed reader would have pointed out that the pictured mansion was Selsdon and not Barnard’s fictional residence (let alone, I’m not sure the current managers at Selsdon Park Hotel would like to be associated with a murder mystery…) So you see, it can be quite difficult to find that perfect yet anonymous building that ticks all of the boxes. But are there any other suggestions?

Chiara Priorelli, Publicity & Online Marketing Manager

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