Sleep is a prison…

Word count: 234 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

The best way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. For this reason I regularly write down sentences I’ve picked up in my own recent reading. Here is one by Michael Ondaatje.

Although I liked the novel The English Patient, I’ve haven’t otherwise been a huge fan of Michael Ondaatje’s writing.  However, a reader of mine encouraged me to try his more recent book The Cat’s Table, and I decided to give it a go.

Ondaatje’s style strikes me a a bit meandering and not quite as, well, poetic as I’d expect from a poet. I enjoyed the story well enough — although didn’t find it hugely gripping. But one line stood out for me and it’s become my sentence of the week.

Sleep is a prison for a boy who has friends to meet.

I like this line because it speaks so evocatively of childhood. Can you remember when you greeted each day so eager to play? I also like the way he takes a state of being — sleep — and compares it to something else. It feels almost like personification, although of course it’s not (because neither sleep nor a prison is a person.)

The shortness of the sentence — just 12 words! — also makes it powerful and memorable.

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