The figurative language of Maggie O’Farrell….

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about metaphors from Maggie O’Farrell…

The Irish writer Maggie O’Farrell is one of the most interesting and skillful authors alive today. I have blogged about here several times before — here and here and here, for example.

Her 2020 novel, Hamnet, the imagined story of Shakespeare’s son, remains on my lifetime Top 10 list.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered a 2006 Maggie O’Farrell book that I had never heard of before. Titled, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, it tells the story of a young woman in 1930s Edinburgh whose relatives involuntarily commit her to a mental institution.

And even though the story is gripping, it’s O’Farrell’s figurative language that makes the day. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Above her, mimosa trees are shaking their heads at her, powdering the lawn with yellow dust.
  • Esme watches her for a moment. Is she asleep? A blue vein pulses in her neck and her eyes move under the lids. Tiny globes of water, no bigger than pinheads, are pushing out from the skin above her lip.
  • Needles of rain are hitting the other side and dusk is staring to colour in the gaps between the trees.
  • Then she goes to the counter and unwraps, from layers and layers of muslin protectors, a folded dress in scarlet. She takes it up carefully by the shoulders, gives it a shake and it opens before her like a flower.
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