The figurative language of Eleanor Catton…

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about similes and metaphors from the masterful writer Eleanor Catton….

The New Zealand novelist and screenwriter Eleanor Catton is a phenomenon. Born in Canada, Catton moved to New Zealand as a child and started winning awards with her debut novel, The Rehearsal, written as her Master’s thesis. Her second novel, The Luminaries, won the 2013 Booker Prize, making Catton the youngest author ever to win the prize, at age 28.

I haven’t yet read either of those books (but I will!) I’m writing today about her third novel, published just this year, a contemporary thriller about a group of young climate activists who call themselves Birnam Wood (which is the name of the book.) The novel is unputdownable.

I found the ending a bit too dark for my tastes, but that certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book, which was immense. She also skillfully employed similes and metaphors and other bits of figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • A windbreak of arrowy poplars threw a toothy shadow over the driveway.
  • Lemoine loved nothing better than to fly. Nothing in the world compared to the liquid thrill of piloting a raft through three axes of movement, feeling the vertical, the lateral, and the longitudinal as divergent possibilities curving away from him through air that was tactile and elastic and textured with a warp and woof.
  • Sheets of grey cloud were gusting down from the pass cutting off the view beneath him, and seeming to arrest the twilight as the colours leached from green and blue to shades of grey.
  • Yes, they [drones] had their limitations — as every technology did — but to hear the guy talk, you’d have thought he’d been given a pair of coffee cans and a piece of string, not a fleet of cutting-edge devices…
  • I heard the drones before I saw them, he wrote, and then he sat back, held up his notebook like a hymnal, and, in a whisper, said the words aloud.
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