The figurative language of Dominic Smith

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today with a host of figurative language from Dominic Smith.

Writer Dominic Smith (pictured above) grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Austin, Texas. He is the author of my favourite novel (so far) of 2016, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and an Amazon Editors’ Top Pick.

The story of a young art student who agrees to copy a seventeenth century painting, the novel spans centuries and continents and, to me at least, has the thrilling pacing of a mystery. But it’s also exceptionally well written, stuffed with metaphors, similes and personification. Here is my favourite figurative language from the book.

  • Head bent, one hand idling her pearl necklace, she’s conferring with such diplomacy that it could be a matter of national security they’re talking about instead of rice pilaf and wild salmon.
  • He looks to Marty like a man who’s been out chopping firewood in a dinner jacket, invigorated by a moment of bracing contact with the elements.
  • With his backpack, surly disposition, and his pale, gaunt face, Hendrik looks like he’s auditioning for a film role as a Dutch hacker.
  • The supersonic thwoomp [of an airplane toilet being flushed] makes him think of certain prewar espresso machines, the big Italian jobs that use to be in Midtown cafes with chrome pull-down handles and steam pumps loud as Vespas.
  • He carefully inspects his tan shirt and lined windbreaker that’s help on for twelve hours because Qantas likes to refrigerate the first-class cabin like they’re hauling steaks across the Pacific.
  • Marty admires his bespoke suit, the cut of the trouser legs with a pair of lavender socks winking at the ankles as he walks back to his office with Marty in his wake.
  • He walks over from his office, up Broadway where the car showrooms are lit up as if for surgery…
  • The crenellated wall beside the church becomes a necklace of alternating shades, a plait of dark and light.
  • At the curb, his night-blue Citroen looks almost sardonic in the morning light — its raked hood and sleek headlights give it the dreadnought grace of a shark.
  • His hearing aid warbles just below actual hearing. The sonic world of the foyer and vestibule comes at him distorted and from a distance, as if someone’s moving furniture under water.
  • The husk of the younger man is still there in the aristocratic nose and jawline and the elegant hands, but his balding scalp has the consistency of blotting paper and his skin is the color of weak tea.
  • The night feels unpeeling, as if she’s burrowed into its flesh. Here is the bone and armature, the trees holding up the sky like the ribs of a ship, the ice hardening the river into a mirror too dull to see the sky’s full reflection.
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