A single upstairs window shone yolkily out….

Word count: 276 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about an image from novelist Claire Messud.

The novel The Emperor’s Children published in 2006 and written by Claire Messud was one of my favourite books of the last five years. Smartly written with compelling characters, it tells the story of young people in a post-9/11 world in New York City.

I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t like Messud’s more recent novel, The Woman Upstairs, nearly as much. The story — about a frustrated school teacher and her friendship with, and betrayal by, a Lebanese professor and an Italian artist, seemed overworked to me. A bit obvious.

That said, I love Messud’s writing. Here is a sentence from the book that grabbed my eye:

It was only about six blocks, across the slope of the most prosperous stretch of Cambridge, past the dark, still gardens with their looming snow-tipped trees, past cavernous houses in which a single upstairs window shone yolkily out, illuminating a small swath of icy lawn; or past others, shrouded entirely by the night, like sleeping ogres. 

I like her use of adjectiveslooming, snow-tipped, cavernous. But, in particular, the metaphor of a light shining like an egg yolk captivated me. I love to walk, often at night, and as I stride by well-lit houses I frequently gaze in windows wondering about the lives of the people who live inside. Comparing the light to an egg yolk suggests meaning, importance and sustenance.

I also like the way this image is captured on the book’s very cover.