The figurative language of Louis Bayard…

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 similes and metaphors from Louis Bayard….

When I read Louis Bayard’s historical novel Courting Mr. Lincoln, I wasn’t sure I was impressed. I had read positive reviews from the Washington Post, the New York Journal of books, Newsday and others. (In fact, I’m sure I heard it mentioned on my favourite podcast, The New York Times Book Review, but I’m unable to find the link now.)

Somehow the book — which explores whether Abraham Lincoln was gay (gossip I’d never before heard, but I am not hugely well read in American history) — didn’t seem to measure up to the positive reviews I’d seen.

Then, however, I examined the author’s use of figurative language, was was reassured that he is a rather fine writer. Here are my favourite examples:

  • In late January, there came a long stretch of mild weather, beguiling enough to make her think spring had muscled its way to the fore.
  • His head tipped toward his shoulder, and the words came scattering out like loose pennies.
  • With a bow, he angled his body away and then left the room, maneuvering around each guest in the manner of a barge navigating sandbars.
  • But, at particular intervals, even Mr. Lincoln’s scratchy tenor could be heard, feeling its way along the melodic line like a child on a creaking branch.
  • Breese had recently been appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court and carried himself accordingly; even his hair seemed to billow with consequence.
  • Topics were discarded as soon as they were raised, and the air itself, braised by a day’s worth of sun, was thick and hot.
  • Baker, on night, joined Calhoun in adumbrating the merits of Beethoven, and at the close of the conversation, clapped the other man lightly on the shoulder, as if to say, Why can we agree on so little else?
  • A man could slough off the taint of a broken engagement; a woman, never. She must carry it through life, like a smallpox scar.
  • It left him feeling absurdly convalescent, like an asthmatic down to his last teaspoon of oxygen.
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