Their faces blank as a row of sunflowers…

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 metaphors from Rachel Cusk. 

I wasn’t terribly  impressed by the plot of the novel Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk. The story of a young naive young woman, living in London with her friends and recovering from her first love affair, felt, frankly, a bit boring.

But the writing? Oh, my goodness. Cusk is a fabulous stylist with a deft ear for metaphor, simile and personification. I’m going to be quiet now and let her do the talking. Here is some of the figurative language that most impressed me:

  • Giant trees posed along the drive like old movie actresses, their gnarled and hysterical limbs dripping with red and gold curls of leaves…Her parents’ small farmhouse lounged comfortably amidst this splendor. It had large windows fringed with frenchified shutters, coquettish as false eyelashes.
  • The dogs were old now and resembled ambulant barrels as they trotted heavily over the meadow.
  • The other people in the bus were looking at her also their faces blank as a row of sunflowers.
  • ‘Right.’ He tried to flag down a waiter and failed. The sleek-haired, black-clothed minions cut sneeringly through the crowded tables like sharks, unapproachable.
  • Inside, the church was cold and empty, and seemed somehow frozen in an attitude of suspended action; as if, a moment before, the wooden pews had been jiggling in the aisles, the candlesticks hopping on the alter, the stained-glass saints quaffing communion wine.
  • The sun came out behind the stained-glass windows, illuminating their people mosaic with colour as if through chromatic aberration…She gazed at the bright pieces of glass. Their colours were luminous, gorgeous lozenges with dark rheumatic joints.
  • Although it was still early evening King’s Cross was deserted, as if a nuclear alert had sounded moments before her arrival.
  • She gazed out of the kitchen window, where the dark trees waved their long branches in the wind like frantic, keening arms.
  • A draught was whistling through the crack in the wall and she felt its cold breath on the back of her neck. She moved from the sofa to the armchair. Now it was licking her leg like a fawning cat.
  • The darkness made time uncertain. It foundered about the craven streets of north London like an amateur detective, looking for clues.

Saving Agnes was Cusk’s first novel (she’s written eight as well as three books of nonfiction) Based on her writing skill, I’m enthusiastic about reading more…

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