Inspired by Annie Atkins in my final year at university, this was a self-initiated brief to bring to life a book visually through a series of graphic materials or props to spark the readers imagination. These pieces had be mentioned in the narrative or alluded to. It also involved producing an accompanying book cover design to be included in a limited edition box set.
I chose the novel ‘The Beekeeper’s Promise’ by Fiona Valpy, which carries two narratives; one about Eliane Martin, a french girl who lives through the Nazi occupation of France in WW2, and the other is about Abi Howes, who discovers Eliane’s story by staying at the Château where Eliane worked which is set in the modern day. The props allow the reader to really engage with the atrocities of the occupation in a more physical way, as well as learning the history from the novel.
The significance of each number code, names and dates that can be found on each prop is explained in the newspaper spread. (Above left)
The props from Eliane’s story are aged as if they were from 1938. (Above right)
This prop is mentioned in Eliane’s story, and is a significant metaphor within the novel. The name can be translated as “Not theirs to take” in reference to how the occupation took many things from France during the war.
The coat of arms features a bee in reference to the bees kept by Eliane, and the codes on the left of the label are taken from the page numbers in which this wine is mentioned.
The stock is thick and textured, aged with tea and soft pastels. The coat of arms, date and bottle details are printed, however the name is handwritten with a dip pen and ink. The wax seal is candle wax and red food colouring.
This prop is mentioned in Eliane’s story, but belongs to Francine, Eliane’s friend. This identity card was issued to all people under German occupancy.
The face of Francine’s photograph is blurred, so that the reader is allowed to create their own picture of what Francine looked like as you read the novel. Some of the details mentioned are taken from the novel.
The Franc stamps are created specifically for this prop, with the bee symbol subtly making up the pattern in the background. The rubber stamps are based on references of different identity cards that were created during the time of the war, printed on baking paper and ‘stamped’. They mention the larger area where the fictitious place, Coulliac, might have been set.
The outer material is canvas with acrylic paint, however the original would have been a leather pouch.
This prop is mentioned in Eliane’s story, as she keeps bees and sells the honey at her local market. This prop is real honey, with a handwritten label that gives a date for the honey production; this date was from 1938 as the chapter tells us, but the 14 and 4 are page numbers from the novel where the honey is mentioned. The symbol of the bee, which can be found on every prop from Eliane’s story is also on the jar, hand-drawn as she would have done.
The paper is thinner, aged with tea and chalk. The jar covering is baking paper with a beeswax thread tied round it.
This prop is alluded to in Eliane’s story, as the novel’s references to a herb garden at the château, which plays a key part in sending communications to the Allies and the resistance against the German occupation. (p126 and 127).
This collection are lavender, mint and tarragon as they are mentioned in the novel. The bee symbol is also present on the packet in two forms; the name of the supplier and the logo. The code on the back is in reference to the page numbers.
The herbs are hand painted with acrylics, and scanned with added textures. The type is printed with the scan, giving a typewriter feel.
This prop is mentioned in Eliane’s story. The Sauf- Conduit Provisoire is the travel permit of the character Mathieu Dubosq, as he travelled from Tulle to Bordeaux.
The writing is handwritten dip pen and ink writing, and the codes make reference to the page numbers where the journey is mentioned. The rubber stamped circle is designed with reference to several stamps used on different travel documents, and was printed on baking paper to give a relief.
The bee symbol can also be found on this.
This prop is mentioned in Abi’s story, and is a metaphor for her abusive marriage, as the ink is smudged when her husband discovers that her name is before his.
The card has a Monet painting on the front and is branded as ‘Coulliac Cards’, like Eliane’s town. The page numbers and dates are referenced in the bar code.
Boarding Pass and Prescription
These props are alluded to in Abi’s story, as Abi’s friend books the flights and the novel mentions Abi’s medication for anxiety. These are significant elements to the narrative.
The boarding pass prop is based on a real AirFrance boarding pass and each number corresponds to a detail in the novel such as dates in Abi and Eliane’s stories, WW2 key dates and page numbers. It is printed on thicker card stock and perforated at the edges.
On the prescription form, the surgery is based on the author’s name, and the details in the novel are the basis of the information. Page numbers are also referenced in the numbers used.
It is printed on layout paper to give a very light feel, like a real prescription.
Book Cover Design
The design pulls aspects of the props into it, like the handwritten title, and the serif typeface. The dotted line runs along the demarcation line that existed during German occupation in France, with all the copy in the ‘occupied’ half. It is also intended to be interpreted as a bee flight path. The stock is a smooth honey colour to reinforce the bee motif.
Every prop was intended to be included in a limited edition crate, along with the book. This is the idea of the box, which unfortunately was unable to be photographed to accompany this project.