Claire Messud and her figurative language

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 novelist Claire Messud….

American novelist and creative writing professor Claire Messud (pictured above) is best known for her novels The Emperor’s Children (2006) and The Woman Upstairs (2013). The first book is still on my lifetime top 10 list (which changes frequently, by the way, but her book has stayed on it). And while I didn’t appreciate the plot of the Woman Upstairs nearly as much, I still found the writing to be superb.

Claire Messud’s more recent novel, The Burning Girl, offers an interesting, accessible plot and more very fine writing. Messud has a deft hand with simile and here are my favourite examples from her most recent work:

  • Bev’s greatest vanity was her hands: her fingernails were always perfectly manicured, oval and file and painted pretty colors like hard candies.
  • Although she enveloped Cassie in her arms first thing, I could see, which Cassie could not, that as she squeezed her daughter her expression was troubled, like a sky across which clouds are blowing at speed.
  • Whereas before school had felt like a cheerful dysfunctional family— we’d know most of our classmates all our lives— now it felt like a parade ground, a theater of strange performances. ‘
  • Rain had destroyed the parquet floor inside, and it buckled like waves in a small harbor.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Nov. 2/17.

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