The figurative language of Celeste Ng….

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Celeste Ng…. 

I was gobsmacked by Celeste Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You. The story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio, not only had a gripping plot — the death of a favourite daughter — but the book contained truly exquisite writing. To my mind, Ng’s latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere isn’t quite successful in terms of plot but the language….oh the language.

Here are my favourite examples of her similes:

  • The dome light lit the inside of the car like a shadow box, but the car was packed with bags nearly to the ceiling and Mrs. Richardson could only just make out the faint silhouette of Mia’s head, the messy topknot perched at the crown of her head.
  • The windows were all gone but the brick shell of the house remained, damp and blackened and steaming, and most of the roof, the ark slate shingles gleaming like fish scales from their recent soaking.
  • It was the soft smells of detergent and cooking and grass the mingled in the entryway, the one corner of the throw rug that flipped up like a cowlick, as if someone had mussed it and forgotten to smooth it out.
  • The docent giving the class a tour was elderly and thin and looked as if all the juice had been sucked out of him through a straw via his pursed mouth.
  • He shut the door behind him, and Mr. McCollough listened, still clutching his overcoat against himself, as if it were a towel.
  • What Mia remembered of those moments was watching the blades of grass in the breeze, changing color as they went, from dark to light, like the nap of velvet when you brushed your hand over it.
  • Even the air seemed lush and thick here, like velvet, swallowing up the click-click of ladies’ heels and the chatter of men in suits, so that they passed as silently as gliding ships.