The Long Song by Andrea Levy
Bound by Sue Doggett

The most striking aspect of the Long Song for me was that it reminds us of the power of words. The mutability of the spoken word is set against the belief in the absolute nature of the written and printed word; the importance of July’s account of her life as a plantation slave, her son’s insistence on this being made permanent in print with political additions, stories told for fun and exaggerated for effect and the worthlessness of the written ‘pass’ which fails to stop July being taken from her mother at the whim of Miss Caroline. This idea was developed into the design of the book by collaging official and personal documents and accounts from the period alongside
text from the novel itself.

The texts were applied to the boards using transfer print and metal and wooden type. The setting of the novel is the sugar cane plantation on which the structure of the binding is based. Each section has a hand-painted guard which suggests the cane itself and these are sewn on to a crossed tape arrangement suggesting cord ties. The sewing on the boards is fragile, worn away in parts and could be seen as unfulfilled or yet to be fulfilled lives and expectations; unending stories perhaps.

The bleeding ink marks which also double as the cane tops makes reference to July’s writing early in the novel. The leather head caps are made from dyed and machine-sewn goatskin and the boards are covered in goat and reversed goatskin with painted paper inserts. The end leaves are hand painted and the doublures have a sugar cane repeated motif running along the tail edges of the boards.