Designing the cover for The Last Act of Love

23 February 2015

We publish an astonishing memoir, The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink, this summer. Have a look at the cover and hear how it came about from the book’s editor, designer and author.

Francesca Main, Cathy's editor:

Cathy Rentzenbrink’s memoir The Last Act of Love is the powerfully moving story of her beloved brother, who was knocked down by a car when he was sixteen and left in a permanent vegetative state for eight years, until his family bravely decided to let him go. It’s the story of a loving family and is filled with memories – some painful, others uplifting.

Matty and Cathy
Matty and Cathy.

I’d read the manuscript twice before Cathy showed me this photograph and I still remember the vivid effect it had on me. I was struck by Cathy and Matty’s obvious closeness, the warmth between them, the life and wonder in Matty’s eyes. It made their relationship and the tragedy of this bright, funny, much-adored boy not getting to live a full life feel all the more real. It had a similar impact on others who saw it, and I just knew we had to use it for the cover somehow. So I asked Justine Anweiler, one of the designers at Picador, to try adapting it, and she came up with a number of creative approaches. It was important to get the balance right – we wanted something bold, poignant and arresting but not sensationalist; something that radiated love and warmth without underplaying the book’s capacity for heartbreak. I think Justine did a wonderful job and that the cover is a beautiful testament to the story within.

Justine Anweiler, cover designer:

I believe that the cover of a memoir should always take the reader into a private moment that is deeply personal to the author. I was completely connected to Cathy’s story as soon as I saw her childhood photographs of her and her brother. I instantly felt the warm-and-fuzzies from my own childhood and was moved by how Cathy’s story unfolded and impacted who she is today. I like the positioning of this particular photo, with Cathy behind her brother, while he sits in front with a glowing and fearless smile. The lettering was placed to reflect the boldness of Cathy letting her brother go, while the word ‘act’ was used literally, to distance them. The image was treated so that Cathy’s story looks fresh but also nostalgic and approachable. The overall cover has the impact and emotion of Cathy’s words.

The Last Act of Love book cover
The book's cover.

Cathy Rentzenbrink, author:

I was on the platform at Gunnersbury tube station when I opened an email from Francesca to see a jacket image for my book and I burst into tears. There are many stages on the journey from scribbling away silently to having an actual book in the world and, so far, this has been the moment when it seemed most real. The process of publication is a continual humbling delight to me: I still can’t really believe that all these very clever and creative people are involving themselves in my words. I think the jacket is a work of art. I’ve stuck it up on the wall next to where I write and as I carry out my final tasks – looking at the copyedit, writing my acknowledgements – I look up at those two beautiful children – my brother with his eyes so full of eager certainty that life will be good – and I hope I’ve done them both justice.

>>THE LAST ACT OF LOVE WILL BE PUBLISHED IN JULY 2015. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT IT HERE.

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