The expressions are from “The Gathering” by Anne Enright (chapter 15, in my copy it’s page 99
and Chapter 30, page 196).
I checked the Phrase Finder: in the examples given there the expression seems to be used in the ordinary quite well-known (to me) meaning. It is not so in “The Gathering”.
The I quotation: “More probably, it was Liam [who] put the hat over my face and nearly killed me. Or it was Kitty who got smothered by the two of us. We played at fainting all the time, which would place the hat in the world of an eight-year-old as opposed to the world of one who is only three.” Is the following interpretation correct: “We played at fainting all the time, and now that I am grown up I understand that the hat was more relevant in the world of a eight-year-old than in the world of one who is only three. So it’s more likely the hat was put on the face of a senior child, not the youngest one.”
The II quotation: “The books look soiled as opposed to read”. Is the following interpretation correct: “The books look so soiled that I do not want to handle them“. Or “it looks like the books were not so much read through, as their covers were soiled”? I am afraid to quote more liberally and thus disobey the rules.