The Girl Who Played Go

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan SaI might feel bad about judging so many books by their covers, except that it always seems to work out so damn well. My most recent foray* into buying books I’ve never heard a thing about solely on the merits of cover design, The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa, is another such case.

First off, it’s worth mentioning that¬†this cover is even more beautiful in person than this graphic could possibly convey. For starters, the red is actually that rich/vivid. And although the book is printed on clean, white stock, the design gives it the effect of a rich, handmade paper. But what’s most exciting is that someone (the designer, one would assume)¬†somehow managed to talk the publishing house into investing a bit of money in a spot gloss, so while the red and tan portions of the cover are an uncoated matte paper, the set of circles (which both metaphorically reveal fragments of a photo of a girl and evoke the shape and sheen of Go pieces) are glossy. For a better look, click on the image to see a larger version.

It’s really gorgeous.

And although I didn’t really deserve it, the book was fantastic, too. An almost shamefully easy read: each chapter is about 2-5 pages long and the first-person narrative voice alternates between the book’s two protagonists. The book is set during the 1930’s Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and is somewhat-aptly described as one reviewer as a Romeo and Julietesque love story between a Chinese schoolgirl and a disguised Japanese soldier. It’s got just enough dark little twists and glipses of authentic character and culture to make it utterly enthralling, and yet despite the high stakes and the overwhelming tragedy that drive the plot, the text remains surprisingly light and nebulous, even as it reaches its inevitable conclusion.

*From the archives, written March 27th, 2007.

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