The figurative language of Kate Elizabeth Russell….

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 Kate Elizabeth Russell….

A client of mine recommended I read the Kate Elizabeth Russell novel My Dark Vanessa and when I checked out the plot and reviews, it intrigued me.

A story arising out of the #MeToo era, the book examines a young girl’s troubled adolescence. She is a 15-year-old who has an affair with her 42-year old teacher — and her attitude towards this relationship raises questions about agency, consent, complicity and victimhood.

The book received rave reviews from The New York Times Book Review (which called it an “exceedingly complex, inventive, resourceful examination of harm and power”), as well as from the Washington Post (which described it as,  “A lightning rod . . . brilliantly crafted.”)

While the story in itself is gripping, I was equally impressed by Russell’s figurative language. Although this is a first novel, and she is young (37), she shows comfort and skill with both metaphor and simile. Here are my favourite examples:

  • He’s not fat but big, broad, and so tall that his shoulder hunch as though his body wants to apologize for taking up so much space.
  • For a moment, I’m dumbstruck. The question slices a painless cut, shockingly clean.
  • I eat a fun-size candy bar in tiny bites and watch the couples dance to a slow song, swaying around the floor like bottles in a pool of water.
  • The week feels like a countdown, like slow footsteps down a long hallway.
  • When he does contact me, it’s an early-morning call, the phone ringing beneath my pillow, sending a vibration across the mattress that sounds in my dream like the drone of a motor on the lake, the rough muted hum I’d hear when swimming underwater as a speedboat passed.
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