The notes swam away like tadpoles…

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 simile from Yiyun Li. 

I first heard about Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li and her book Kinder Than Solitude when I heard her interviewed on the CBC radio program, Writers and Company.

Intrigued by the novel’s plot, which focuses on the poisoning of one young woman, around the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, I bought the book for my Kindle and read it over the summer.

I found the writing style rather reserved — almost academic, really — and the characters curiously cold and withdrawn. I didn’t know whether to attribute this to cultural differences or, simply, to the unique style of Yiyun Li. Still, I appreciated some of her figurative language and, in particular, this simile:

In the warm steam, she drifted off a little; here and there a phrase from the concerto caught in her head, and she seemed able to see it printed clearly on a music sheet before the notes swam away like tadpoles. 

I also like the way Li managed to merge simile with the art of personification (assuming one can consider musical notes to be people!) Now in year three of my effort to learn to play the piano, I too frequently discover the notes swimming away like little amphibians.

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