The figurative language of Madeleine Watts…

Reading time: About 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 Madeleine Watts…

Madeleine Watts, who grew up in Australia, but who has been based in New York since 2013, writes fiction, stories, and essays.  She is the winner of the 2015 Griffith Review Novella Competition. Her debut novel, The Inland Sea, was shortlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing.

She has a sharp eye and ear for figurative language — so much so that I’d wager she’s written a lot of poetry as well. Here are my favourite examples from The Inland Sea.

  • The heat rose in the evenings, the old bricks of the house absorbed it, and after dark my bedroom felt as thick and quivering as an oven.
  • I thought being hurt would give my life an interesting kind of texture, the way good surfers are always marked by the scrapes and scars of battles found with the waves.
  • More and more I was living in the dark, aquatic place in my mind where such plans were defined only vaguely, by sentiments such a “leave” or “retreat” or simply, “no.”
  • Some rivers flowed west. Turned their backs on the Pacific and slouched suggestively inland.
  • She was a girl from a world of rhododendrons and cul-de-sacs and golf club memberships.
  • The rain had poured down all day and now drizzled, as though it, too, were tired and needed to rest before the inundation continued.
  • I walked from Prince Alfred Park, up through an alleyway and towards the theater on Belvoir Street, where my mother waited on the corner, holding her hand bag in front of her legs like a shield.
  • For years I swam with my hands in fists, thrashing through the water as though I were punching it.
Scroll to Top