The figurative language of Nell Stevens…

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

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 Nell Stevens…

One of my favourite books so far this year has been the memoir/travel book/novel Bleaker House by Nell Stevens. It tells the story of her three-month, all-expenses-paid fellowship that allowed her to go anywhere in the world to research and write a book. She picked one of the Falkland Islands and was the only person there for much of her stay.

Here is some of her figurative language that so thrilled me:

  • When I first arrived, I stood in the doorway to watch the sun drop out of the sky into the grey water, listening to the thick silence of this empty corner of the world.
  • I position everything neatly, the worry that the orderliness will seem oppressive. I disarrange the objects, as though I had tossed them down without much thought. Still, somehow, the table feels like a set, the sunroom like a stage, and the island beyond like a gaping, vacant auditorium.
  • You can see the whole curve of the island: cliffs on the west side and a beach on the east, speckled with black-and-white dots that, when you walk towards them, bloom into penguins. They waddle and slither into the waves and run out again like delighted toddlers.
  • [The island] feels as though we are at sea, surrounded by water with no sight of land, and might sink at any moment without a trace.
  • At nine o’clock the generator outside turns off. The comforting thrum of the machine, which I hadn’t noticed until it stopped, is replaced by a shrill silence.
  • I stare at the page. The cursor blinks apprehensively.
  • The plate was a mess of skin and scales and discarded flesh; only the head of the fish remained intact. Its mouth gaped, as though it were aghast at what had happened.
  • I play music that doesn’t fill the silence so much as sits on top of it.
  • As I cross the white sand, my footprints are the only ones. It is like walking on fresh snow.
  • The sea is a vat of spume and kelp, and on the beach, even the penguins look miserable, huddled together like the stranded guests of a black-tie dinner.
  • There are several caracaras on the island; large, black birds of prey, sharp and clever-looking. When they land, they plummet clumsily into the mud, then cock their heads to one side to examine you as though assessing whether or not you are a flight risk.
  • The plane is crouching on the airstrip like a giant insect, bright red, alien-looking.
  • The whole gully is filled with thick, foamy water that looks like churning whipped cream.