Every picture tells a story



I’m enjoying Victoria Hislop’s “Cartes Postales” at the moment. I’ve never visited Greece, but this is a delicious appetiser for another place on my bucket list. The story opens with Ellie in London. Every week a postcard from Greece arrives through her door, addressed to someone else and signed with the initial “A”. Then, a notebook is received and it contains a moving account of A’s journey through the country; an odyssey. I’m only at the start but I’m tantalised already by this novel. And I particularly like the black and white photos, artistically enhanced, which are scattered throughout. At Christmas I read Kate Mosses’ “Winter Ghosts” and she has included faded, spooky photos throughout her book, which I loved.
Do you remember your favourite childhood reads? I loved poring over comforting, detailed images in Jill Barklem’s “Brambly Hedge” and Cynthia and Brian Patersons’ “The Foxwood Tales”. Thomas Henry’s brilliant illustrations in the old editions of “William” stories by Richmal Crompton still make me smile. They amplified my enjoyment of William’s escapades. I have a treasured, slightly mildewed copy of J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan and Wendy”, decorated by Gwynedd M. Hudson. There are only three colours used in each illustration and the style is redolent of the 1930’s. I’m lucky to have four grandchildren and the excuse to share these stories with them and peer at the pictures together again. Why shouldn’t there be illustrations in more adult books? illustrations
I have included photos in both my historical novels, many of them kindly donated by our local tourist office in Italy.  The Tuscan locations are an inspiration to me as a writer. Some would argue that it is up to me to paint those pictures through my words alone. I have had a couple of comments saying as much: “Not too sure about the photos – perhaps unnecessary to include because of the quality of reproduction,” said one reviewer. Contradicting this point of view, somebody else wrote: “…at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.”
The e-pub versions of my book have been published by Endeavour Press and they have not included photos in their books. However, I’ve kept them in my paperback versions.

I’ve sneaked a peek at the back of Victoria Hislop’s book where she chats to Patrick Insole, Creative Director at Headline, about the photographs. He worked for many years in children’s publishing. He says the key to including illustrations is to identify “the moments where text and picture work together, where they are supposed to work together.” Hislop adds that “ultimately it gives the reader pictures that will float around – and live – in their mind’s eye.”
I have a third Tuscan novel in the pipeline and I intend to include photos. Victoria Hislop has encouraged me to think that I can enhance my text through photographic glimpses. But in the meantime, I’m looking for an illustrator for my WIP which is nearly finished. It is important for me to get the right pairing. I think I am almost there with my hunt. Watch this space for news of “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”.

Here are the links to Victoria Hislop – “Cartes Postales” and The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse

I would love to know your opinions about illustrations and photos in adult books.


About Angela Petch

Bit of a story dreamer, written two novels - a third in progress. I love my little family and in no particular order afterwards: Italian culture, food, wine, walking everywhere I can and especially in the Apennines, East Africa, tennis when I can, reading, reading and more reading. So much to discover still before I die.
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9 Responses to Every picture tells a story

  1. Carol Thomas says:

    Pictures sound perfect for your new project. Good luck with finding your illustrator. It is great to work with one who can help you realise the vision you have in mind for your book. xx


  2. William Boyd included photographs in one of his latest books, Sweet Caress. I found them disappointing and in the end distracting. However, as your next WIP is comedic then illustrations will enhance the text.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jessiecahalin says:

    I did enjoy the photos in your books , as they documented the historical context. However, I do admire your gift for storytelling. I look forward to the third book in the series. Are you currently writing two books?


    • Angela Petch says:

      Thanks, Jessie. I’m in the last three-quarter stages of “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”, set at the British seaside. But, in the corner of my mind another book is lurking. My third Tuscan novel. I can’t write two books at the same time, but Tuscany is calling and as soon as I have my “British” novella finished, I’ll be lost in the writing of my Tuscan ghosts…hopefully! Who knows what will happen?


  4. Really good question. The only reason i can think of not to include photos would be because they could jar the reader out of the story. But with fantasy or sci-fi, they’d be awesome.


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