The figurative language of Aminatta Forna….

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes and metaphors from Aminatta Forna….

Aminatta Forna (pictured above) was born in Scotland, raised in Sierra Leone and Great Britain and spent parts of her childhood in Iran, Thailand and Zambia. She is the recipient of a Windham Campbell Award from Yale University and won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award for her novel The Memory of Love. 

But I write today about her marvellous book Happiness, a story of love, loss, immigrants and unexpected sources of community. I was terribly impressed, not only with the engaging and thoughtfully written story, but also with Forna’s skill with figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • They sat with their backs to the sun-warmed wall, eyes closed as if with the reverence of prayer, faces turned to the sun, they might have been believers awaiting the appearance of their god.
  • He left the man frowning into the shallows of his glass and eased his way through the crowd until he reached a man with thick white hair good teeth and eyebrows that soared like silver wings over the top of his glasses.
  • The singer, an Ecuadorian woman past middle age, was possessed of a torso round and taut as a cricket ball, short straight legs and wrinkled knees.
  • His voice was deep, crumbly, the texture of rich earth.
  • She had pre-baited the spot she thought to set the trap, had placed raw meat on the boulder and trailed blood around it, crimson drops that fell through the snow as if with the weight of mercury.
  • Each chair held a sleeping occupant, head lolled to one side or else folded chine to chest, skin pale and creased as origami paper, hands bent sharply at the wrist lay in laps like dying birds.
  • She did not work frenetically and in order to forget, she immersed herself in work, gradually and pleasurably, as though she were walking into a warm lake.
  • Once or twice a wing dipped as if the bird was a tightrope walker who had momentarily lost and regained balance.
  • A space had been cleared of tables and a number of residents in wheelchairs were arranged in a circle like wagons around a campfire.
  • It nosed along close to the kerb, like a small animal rooting for scraps.
  • There is asked directions of a young man with pellucid eyes, moonscape skin and an Adam’s apple that threatened to break through the surface of his neck like a shark’s fin through still water.
  • He could picture it, the line of houses marching out to the sea, the waves throwing themselves on the shore like shipwrecked sailors.
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