It was like the rocks took the light…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors from Anne Enright….

I zipped through the marvellous novel The Green Road, by Anne Enright (pictured above), late last year. But my end-of-the-year finish meant it escaped mention in the last round-up of books I’d read, which appeared in November 2015. Sad, because this story of a dysfunctional Irish family surely qualified as one of my favourite books of the year.

The writing was sublime. Here are some examples of the figurative language that earned my affection:

  • Far below were the limestone flats they called the Flaggy Shore; grey rocks under a grey sky, and there were days when the sea was a glittery grey and your eyes could not tell if it was dusk or dawn, your eyes were always adjusting. It was like the rocks took the light and hid it away.
  • Up close, the stones were dappled with white and scattered with coins of yellow lichen, like money in the sunlight.
  • Oh, your bladder’s very close to your eyes, her mother used to say, or Your Waterworks, Constance called it, and that was another phrase they all used, Here come the waterworks, even though it was her brother and sister who made her cry. Emmet especially, who won her tears from her, pulled them out of her face, hot and sore and ran off with them, exulting.
  • Every name they spoke dragged its own tiny silence after it.
  • Dan opened his mouth and a ream of poetry fell out. Line after line — it was like a scroll unfurling along the tabletop, a carpet unrolled.
  • The air outside the hospital doors was amazing, so packed full of oxygen and weather. Constance could not remember where she had parked the car but she did not mind walking through the spottings of rain pulling the sky into her lungs. Sipping at the world.
  • The baby was not crying, for once. They never did what you wanted them to. A little opposite thing, that is what came out of her. A fight they wrapped in a cloth.
  • Constance gripped the steel rail in the Arrivals area and held her own face up like a plate for her brother to recongise, but it was, she knew, just a sad reflection of what she used to be. Her face was a shadow passing over the front of her head — like the play of light on the side of a mountain, maybe.
  • As they travelled towards home, the landscape accumulated in Dan like a silt of meaning that was disturbed by the line of a hedgerow or the sight of winter trees along a ridge.
  • A pub that, in their youth, smelt of wet wool and old men was now a gallery of scents, like walking through he perfume department in the Duty Free.
  • It was pitch black. Dan had walked away from the house and when the light went out on his phone, the night blinked and swallowed him.
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