Niall Williams’s figurative language…

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 Niall Williams….

An Irish writer whose novels have received critical acclaim and widespread success, Niall Williams is known for his poetic style and evocative imagery. And his sense of humour.

His remarkable novel, This Is Happiness, is so chock-a-block with figurative language that I’m able to include less than 50% of the remarkable sentences I noted.

  • In Faha [Ireland] your clothes were rain and your skin was rain and your house was rain with a fireplace.
  • They and the rain had been married so long they no longer took notice of each other.
  • In the fields the cattle, made slow-witted by the rain, lifted their rapt and empty faces, heavy loops of spittle hanging, as though they ate watery light.
  • Father Coffey, the curate, was young then, and in vocational love with his new parish. Pale and thin as a Communion wafer he was addicted to the Wilkinson Sword and shaved to the blood vessels. He had the raw look of a trainee saint and the glossy eyes of those in combat with their own blood.
  • He had the pink, unmade lips of a baby but the ice-blood of the county coroner.
  • A short and almost perfectly round man with eyes always near to laughter and tufted hair that sat like a small wig on a football, Ganga had the large ears that God puts on old men as evidence of the humour necessary for creation.
  • Along the hem of both trouser legs were brown exclamations of dirt thrown up from travelling a puddled road
  • But none of this was actual swimming. For those who did strip off, swimming was achieved by a sort of head-up back-and-over tossing accompanied by wild arm and leg thrashing in the belief that you could outrun drowning if you thrashed fast enough.
  • Her hair floated in a wispy cloud of white, was thin in several places where the pink of her scalp showed like an egg tender and vulnerable.
  • I said nothing, opening and closing my mouth like a trout and twisting some more.
  • The bannister of the stairs came adrift from the rails, if you held on to it for support you had the sensation of a ship in rough seas.
  • He drove [the car] down the middle of roads with an ambassadorial confidence.
  • [He was] a Stan Laurel, with abbreviated eyebrows like a pair of French accents, both pointing haplessly in and upward.
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