The figurative language of Caroline O’Donoghue

Reading time: About 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 Caroline O’Donoghue…

Caroline O’Donoghue is a writer from Cork, Ireland. As well as being a New York Times bestselling young adult novelist, she has recently published two novels for adults, Promising Young Women (2018) and The Rachel Incident (2023). The latter tells the story of a young woman named Rachel who falls in love with her married professor. Her best friend, James, helps her devise a reading at their local bookstore, with the aim of seducing the professor afterwards. Hijinks ensue.

The book is funny and well-written and loaded with terrific figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Being this pregnant makes me feel my body in layers — crust, mantle, core — and all of it rumbles at once when I think about Dr. Byrne.
  • I remember our first meeting like it’s a scene from a movie about someone else.
  • He [the bookstore owner] talked about the book industry as if it were a dragon that was chained in the basement, and would tear us limb from limb at any moment.
  • He said it like he was Poirot investigating a country house blighted by murder.
  • It made me go digging in memories that I had not remembered before, and I felt as if I had discovered a new part of the ocean floor.
  • I thought of my parents as heads on Easter Island, and it took moving two miles away to realise they had been people all along.
  • “Sure,” I said, and tossed a black bin bag full of clothes on the bed, where it exploded like an over-cooked dumpling.
  • Every week, fifteen badly groomed children sat around in near silence while their odour suggested they were being pickled from within.
  • The geyser was beautiful, and it splashed everyone, and the splash was so happily received that it felt like a version of Sea World for people who read The New York Times on their phone.
  • He looked handsome and wilted, like a tough flower that was gallantly surviving despite over-watering.
  • I went under the covers with James’s laptop, the headphones stuck so far into my ears that they were tickling my brain.
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