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Most Recent Blog Post

A luminous envelope of familial intensity…

metaphorReading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a metaphor from Ian McEwan.

As a recent fan of novelist Ian McEwan, I’m now in the process of “back-reading.” That is, I’m searching for novels he wrote years ago but that I somehow missed. The 1992 novel Black Dogs falls into that category.

The story of a crumbling marriage — as witnessed by the central couple’s son-in-law — Black Dogs is not as skillfully plotted as McEwan’s more recent work. Still, I found his writing to be transcendent. Here is a sentence I particularly liked:

There were three of them, husband, wife, and a seven- or eight-year-old boy, and they arrived wrapped in their own silence, a luminous envelope of familial intensity which moved across the larger quietness of the dining room to occupy the next table but one from mine. 

Although I share the notion that writers should use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, I love the metaphor, which is stuffed with them: “they arrived wrapped in their own silence, a luminous envelope of familial intensity.” Haven’t you, yourself, seen such a scene at a restaurant? I particularly appreciate the way McEwan apparently personifies this feeling or intensity.