The figurative language of William Trevor…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about several metaphors from William Trevor…

The best figurative writing paints an exceptionally clear and evocative picture in the reader’s mind’s eye. Let me give you an example from William Trevor’s highbrow thriller Death in Summer:

She bulges out of a spotted yellow dress, a hat reminiscent of a turban hiding much of her henna hair, her lipstick a splash of crimson. Coloured beads lollop over double chins and reach an artificially deepened cleavage, exposed between mammoth breasts.

Can’t you just picture this woman? She’s what my mother would have called a “tart.”

An Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer, Trevor (pictured above) was born in County Cork in 1928. The author of 19 novels and novellas, he has won many prizes including the Hawthornden Prize, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award, and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. He received the prestigious David Cohen Literature Prize in 2002 in recognition of a lifetime’s literary achievement, and was subsequently knighted.

His metaphors are gentle, almost apologetic: a hat reminiscent of a turban, and lipstick that’s merely a splash. But his intent is sharp and pointed. I also like his use of the word lollop, which means to move in an ungainly way in a series of clumsy paces, but which also benefits from onomatopoeia — a word suggesting the sound it describes. Indeed, it also demonstrates personification. Talk about multitasking…

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