More figurative language from Robert Harris…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Robert Harris…

I’ve read a number of Robert Harris books and I see him as a journeyman thriller writer rather than a fine stylist. Still, his work is well reserached and skillfully written (no purple prose). And he continues to surprise me with some of his fine figurative language, mostly similes.

Here are my favourite examples from his most recent book, Munich, a fictionalized treatment of the signing of the 1938 agreement between British PM Neville Chamberlain and Adoph Hitler.

  • Legat stood aside to let them pass — ‘like a trio of pall-bearers in search of their coffin’ was how he described them afterwards.
  • The junior secretaries had all gone home, their typewriters shrouded for the night like the cages of sleeping birds.
  • ‘The “gossip columns”?’ The Permanent Under-Secretary repeated the term with distaste, as if it were something unspeakable that needed to be handled with a pair of tongs.
  • His plump, brown-clad body swayed with the train; he reminded Hartmann of a fat chrysalis about to burst.
  • Seagulls whirled across [the skylight] like litter in the wind.
  • Against the battleship-grey sky the barrage balloons were barely visible, like tiny silvery fish.
  • His complexion was ruddy, his eye bright. There was no hint of tiredness. He looked as if he had just come back from the river for breakfast after landing a good salmon.