The figurative language of Yasuko Thanh…

Reading time: About 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 Yasuko Thanh….

Yasuko Thanh is a writer and guitarist, born in Canada to a German mother and a Vietnamese father. At the age of 15, she dropped out of school to live on the streets. Prior to winning the Journey Prize for her short story Floating Like the Dead in 2009, she earned her living as a busker in Vancouver.

Her recent novel, To the Bridge tells the story of a mother determined to save her family, after her teenage daughter’s suicide attempt. While I found the plot strangely uncompelling, it was clear to me that Thanh certainly knows how to write. In particular, she shows great skill with figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • The automatic doors opened to swallow us like a big mouth.
  • Hospitals should be a place of light, like the seaside, where one may find healing; instead we moved through the bowels of a beast that breathed from vents and exhaled into rooms Dickensian with suffering.
  • The problem, he said, tapping his pen on his clipboard as if referring to a speed bump on the road, was the time factor.
  • Then his body pointed, arrow-like, toward the elevator and he scuffled away, his hands in the pockets of his white coat.
  • Trying to improve my appearance, I turned on the water while Juliet sat on her hospital bed and (though the water was still cold) ran wet hands through my hair hanging from my head with all the limpness of a lost cause.
  • I must have looked like a secretary about to take dictation, upright posture, on the edge of my seat, my purse on my lap like a poodle.
  • The counselor considered me with the intensity of a lip reader, then lowered her eyes.
  • My head was like a cageful of birds, beating their wings, shrieking.
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