I was stopped in my tracks today by this humble sentence about a character’s eyes from Jodi Picoult’s The Book of Two Ways:

 

“They made me think of the heart of a glacier, of how, even when you touch dry ice with your bare skin, you cannot let go even if you try.” (p.18)

 

She’d already won me over at this stage with her depictions of Egyptian hieroglyphs and history and references to IndianaJones. What I love about this sentence is the sensory and emotional experience. I’m sick of reading she/he had green or grey eyes when the majority of people have brown, followed by blue (in certain cultural contexts). So blue eyes, check, while avoiding the cliche’s of a lake, the sky, etc. Double check! We instead get treated to ice reflecting the sky in its centre in a form of a glacier, making me feel the character’s cold disinterest in me. Then she choses the word ‘dry’ reinforcing this lack of life, and yet ‘with your bare skin’ brings to mind the sensual. Exactly. The women is describing an ex-lover. Thus, being stuck to the ice (‘you cannot let go’) is more about tongue and lolly freeze, we are transported to a place of shivery recognition of the attraction she is describing. It wasn’t a mistake Picoult used ‘heart’ after all. She does not want to become unstuck from this man. As a reader, I assume at this point as I haven’t read further, the story will bring them into contact once more. No spoilers here. Combined, physical, emotional and narrative connections work together in one simple sentence. Doesn’t feel so simple after all now, does it?

 

Okay, excuse me, I have to go and read some more …


Emma Parfitt

Proofreader for business and academic documents, translations, and English writing.

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