The figurative language of Francis Spufford…

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 and metaphors from Francis Spufford….

I can no longer remember where I heard about the marvellous work by Francis Spufford, The Child That Books Built. Subtitled A Life in Reading, the book explores his excitement at learning to read as a child and his early favourite novels. (Spoiler: The Chronicles of Narnia play a role.) Like many children — before and after him — he discovered that reading not only allowed him to escape boredom and pain but also to explore transcendency.

An English author and teacher of writing, in recent years, Spufford has gradually turned from a  non-fiction writer into a novelist. His first novel Golden Hill received critical acclaim including the Costa Book Award for a first novel, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Ondaatje Prize. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Best of all, Spufford writes with evocative and colourful figurative language. Here are my favourite examples The Child that Books Built:

  • Then, flat on my front with my chin on my hands or curled in a chair like a prawn, I’d be gone.
  • My parents were loquacious like me, constant reassurers, constant interrupters.
  • Imagine feeling your mind sleekly stocked with all the reading there is, like a cupboard of perfectly folded linen.
  • The more you see a bookshop how I tend to, as a chemist’s dispensing an almost universal range of mod-altering substances, each slightly different from the next, the more essentially interchangeable books seem.
  • It doesn’t matter that my eyes track across the breakfast table for the wafer of text on the cornflake packet just as avidly as any channel hopper squeezing the remote, both of us eager for the mere brush of our chosen medium going by.
  • Her legs dangled out of her frocks like strings.
  • It was as if Puffin [publishing] were part of the administration of the world.
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