The fluorescent lights were a hive of bees…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about two metaphors from Steven Galloway….

I read the Steven Galloway novel The Cellist of Sarajavo in 2013 and found it slow going.  Set in Bonsia, in the 1990s, when 22 people are killed by a mortar attack, a cellist marks their deaths by playing his cello at the site, for 22 days.The book contained some very fine writing but, while based on real-life events, the story seemed heavy-handed to me.

I have no such hesitation about Steven Galloway’s latest novel,  The Confabulist. The (lightly) fictionalized story of Harry Houdini — and the man who killed him — the book explores  fame and ambition, reality and illusion. I found it gripping and hard to put down and read it in just over a day.

I especially appreciated Galloway’s figurative language, shown here with two examples of his metaphors:

  • The fluorescent lights were a hive of bees, and footsteps in the hallway thunder-clapped toward the elevator.
  • There was something severe about her — she seemed to disapprove of the condition of being alive but was trying to make the best of it.

I’ve always disliked the buzzing of fluorescent lights so his comparison to the sound of bees seemed absolutely perfect to me. I also found the turn of phrase, “she seemed to disapprove of the condition of being alive,” to be amusing.

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