The figurative language of Tana French

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 metaphors from Tana French…

I don’t usually read mysteries. But if more people wrote like Tana French (pictured above), I would.

Sometimes described as, “the First Lady of Irish Crime,” French is a resident of Dublin. Her 2007 debut novel, In the Woods — which is the one I just read — won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards for best first novel.

The figurative language Tana French uses is far superior to that of most genre writers — but she doesn’t let go of the plot, either. Here are my favourite examples.

  • This is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue.
  • Its silence is a pointillist conspiracy of a million tiny noises — rustles, flurries, nameless truncated shrieks; its emptiness teems with secret life, scurrying just beyond the corner of your eye.
  • Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass.
  • Costello got stuck with Quigley and gave us sad reproachful looks for weeks, like a martyred Labrador.
  • I worry that I might come out of hypnosis with that sugar-high glaze of self-satisfied enlightenment, like a seventeen-year-old who’s just discovered Kerouac, and start proselytising strangers in pubs.
  • There were fifteen or twenty of them; their faces turned towards the door, intent and synchronized as baby birds’, when we came in.
  • Every coincidence felt like a sea-worn bottle slammed down on the sand at my feet, with my name engraved neatly on the glass and inside a message in some mockingly indecipherable code.
  • Our counterpoint had been polished to the seamlessness of a Beach Boys harmony.
  • Outside, the drizzle was starting to clear; a watery shaft of sun fell across the map like a helicopter’s searchlight, picked out a stretch of the river, rippling with delicate penstrokes and shaded over with a dull red haze.
  • Losing a chunk of your memory is a tricky thing, a deep-sea quake triggering shifts and upheavals too far distant from the epicentre to be easily predictable.
  • The windows were grimy, and the late- afternoon sun filtering through them slid confusingly off glass-fronted cabinets and the polished wood of the dining table, giving the room a streaky, underwater luminescence.
  • It was boiling [hot]; every breath was warm as bathwater and the sky was the colour of the inside of a candle flame.
  • Then I saw a fingernail of new moon between racing clouds.
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