Motif and Foreshadowing: Exploring the Cover of ‘Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague’ by Jennifer Jenkins

When my manuscript had been completed for months and my attempts to engage a literary agent in representing me were somewhat fruitless, I made the decision to self-publish. With that decision came the need for a front cover. I am blessed to have a husband, David, who is an industrial product design graduate and is quick at learning how to use technology to produce images that are attractive and crisp. He agreed he would tackle the cover but assured me it would not be very professional looking. I think we can agree he was wrong about that!

We began by finding book covers I actually liked the look of. I know the saying is ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’ but I find myself doing it all the time. I browse Waterstones and pick up books with beautiful covers all the time. The ones that usually catch my eye are in earthy colours, featuring designs from nature (vines, leaves, flowers, animals), often repeating in some way or carrying some significance to the plot.

Having decided on a font and quite quickly creating the central image of the three women, David set about trying out colours for the background and various textures.

In the earliest versions of the cover, the background was solid blue
David began adding the motifs to the cover, building up different layers to create an overall image.


The final version of the book featured a darker background, texturing and the inclusion of three key motifs

The Feathers

The Feathers: Emmott Syddall

The feathers on the cover represent Emmott’s story. They are the largest of the motifs to honour the fact it was Emmott’s story which first captivated me and prompted me towards writing the novel. They refer to her pet linnet, left alone without its mate; ultimately a foreshadowing of Rowland being left without his one true love.

The Flower

The Flower: Catherine Mompesson

The flower on the right hand side of the cover represents Catherine. This points towards her pull towards apothecary in the novel, but it is also a foreshadowing of her declaration to her husband William, ‘Oh! Mompesson! The air! How sweet it smells!’ (recorded in William Wood’s ‘The History and Antiquities of Eyam’, 1842), an unfortunate harbinger of her impending death, as smelling a sweet smell was believed at the time to be an early sign of plague infection.

The Spool of Thread

Spool of Thread: Elizabeth Hancock

The spool of thread on the left side of the cover represents Elizabeth. This is a foreshadowing of her fateful decision to make a doll for her daughter using scraps from the tailor, an act which ultimately leads to the introduction of plague into the Hancock farmhouse after it is given as a comfort to a plague victim in the neighbouring Talbot household and then brought home.

The thread weaves its way around all of the women, showing how their stories are connected and hinting at the method I used to write the novel; writing their stories separately and then carefully weaving the chapters together to tell a coherent narrative of that fateful year in Eyam.

So, there you have the story behind the cover. There is only one thing left to say and that is a massive thank you to my husband, David, for giving my words the most beautiful wrapping and honouring Emmott, Catherine and Elizabeth with his wonderful design.

Published by jenjenkins42

I am an author from a village outside of Rugby in Warwickshire. I love historical fiction. You will find me reading, hanging out with my husband, our two sons and our little dog, baking or walking.

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