Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Penguin Publishing Group: 5/15/18
eBook review copy; 224 pages
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is a highly recommended emotionally
powerful story of first loves and a love triangle. It is about love,
friendship, loss, and survival.
The first part of the narrative is set in 1996 and is told through
Ellis Judd's point-of-view in the third person. Ellis is a 45-year-old
widower who works the night shift in a car plant in Oxford in 1996.
He is still mourning the death of his wife, Annie, five years earlier.
Even before that, though, he is grieving his father forcing him to leave
school and abandon all hope of becoming an artist years ago, right
after his mother died. He is also grieving the loss of his friend,
Michael. Ellis, Annie and Michael were inseparable, until Michael
abruptly left for London.
For me this quote packed a powerful emotional reaction:
"Billy came out and saw him looking up with tears frozen before they
could fall. And he wanted to say to Billy, I'm just trying to hold it
all together, that's all.
He wanted to say that because he had never been able to say that to
anyone, and Billy might be a good person to say it to. But he couldn't."
Have you ever been going through something extremely hard and wanted to
tell someone "I'm just trying to hold it all together?" I know that
feeling and anyone who has ever experienced something so hard and dark
and overwhelming will immediately relate to Ellis' feelings.
The second part of the narrative is set in 1989 and is from the first
person point-of-view of Michael's journal entries. As much as Ellis
loved Annie, his friend Michael loved him. They met as 12-year-old boys
and were inseparable as they helped and supported each other. Michael's
story is that of a gay man facing the AIDS crisis as a former lover is
dying, and it covers his return to his two friends in Oxford.
A copy of a Van Gogh sunflower painting, as indicated by the cover, also
plays a role in the story. Ellis's mother loved it and won a copy in a
raffle when pregnant with Ellis. She shared her love of art with Ellis
There is no question that Tin Man is a beautifully written novel,
eloquent and emotional. The complex relationship between the characters
and the inner emotional lives of Ellis and Michael are explored, but
not fully developed. The narrative is not linear, especially with Ellis,
and jumps around in time and subject matter. Some of the gaps in the
story and the timeline must be filled in through supposition by the
reader. Occasionally these leaps were challenging to follow. Still, this
is a superb and stunning novel that offers several memorable quotes.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Publishing Group.