The figurative language of Jill Ciment…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors and similes from Jill Ciment…

Although I say I seldom read murder mysteries, I’m starting to conclude I read more of them than I think. Take, for example, the book The Body in Question by Jill Ciment (pictured above).

I was drawn to it because it I’m a sucker for a good review and it received many of them. Ciment is an American writer known for her polished writing style and she has received a number of awards and grants over the years, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Even though I didn’t particularly enjoy her plot, I found plenty of evidence for her skill with figurative language:

  • Her most striking feature is her hair: the bottom six inches are dyed shoe-polish black, the top six inches are Barbie blond.
  • She touches his face again, reading the pitted skin like Braille.
  • He smiles at her. The smile is false and rigid, closer to rigor mortis than joy.
  • The jurors are already seated, spaced apart on the gallery pews, as if they are about to take a written exam and the judge doesn’t want anyone cheating.
  • When the [pacemaker] batter is low, the sound resembles a distant truck backing up. When the battery is about to die, the sound becomes more urgent and resembles the siren the Nazis blared on their way to arrest Jews.
  • For the remainder of the day, he doesn’t behave like a man preparing for a long trip. He looks more like a man preparing for an enormous wave to drag him to the bottom of the ocean without a pipe to hammer on for help.
  • The studio’s glass wall, especially at night, always makes her feel like prey, as if an owl could swoop in and grab her by her hair.
  • The nurse returns with the blood cart, enough bags of blood for a horror film.
  • The stiff vinyl armchair is to a normal armchair what a pair of diabetic shoes is to Italian loafers
  • The volume of patients funneling into the medical enter looks like a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
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