The figurative language of Ann Patchett

Reading time: About 3 mins.

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about similes and metaphors from Ann Patchett…

I’ve been a fan of Ann Patchett for many years, as you can see from some previous posts I’ve written about her.

Her latest book, Tom Lake, is a good but not great one. A particular plot point irked me: The protagonist is a woman who established a short but successful theatre career playing just one role. I’ve known several stage actors in my life and I can tell you this is absolutely absurd and unbelievable.

Still, Ann Patchett delivers with her figurative language. Here are my favourite examples from this book:

  • Some of them had decent voices, but tip them off the side of a boat and they would go down like anchors.
  • When I turned a hem or took in a waistband, they looked at me like I was Prometheus coming down from Olympus with fire.
  • Veronica’s eyebrows were thick and black and she tweezed them into delicate submission.
  • I used to say Veronica could never play poker because her thoughts passed across her forehead like a tickertape.
  • We won’t look down the rows [of cherry trees] at what seems to be an unbroken field of red dots, a pointillist’s dream of an orchard.
  • “He might have misread the schedule,” Duke offered, even though the top of the schedule said REHEARSALS BEGIN PROMPTLY AT 9:00 A.M. in a typeface large enough to be scolding.
  • They swam like women in classic Hollywood movies, smiling, with lip gloss.
  • Instead of cherry trees, eighty-foot hemlocks and read oaks and white pines, and between those hemlocks and oaks and pine are giant rocks dressed up in mossy sweaters.
  • We don’t have a swim platform, we don’t have any destination at all; with a little orienteering we could swim to Wisconsin. I drop beneath the surface and open my eyes. It’s as if someone bought up all the diamonds at Tiffany’s and crushed them into dust, then spread that dust across the water so that it sifts down evenly, filtering through the shards of light that cut into the depth.
  • But on this July morning it is raining, great white sheets of water pounding every side of the house. The lightning flicks like a strobe, filling the kitchen with a single second of blinding brightness before flicking off again.
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