Source: Review copy
Publication: Out in paperback on 22 March 2018 from Tinder Press
It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.
And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,
who are inseparable.
And the boys become men,
and then Annie walks into their lives,
and it changes nothing and everything.
Oh my goodness. What a deeply touching, beautifully written book this is. Poignant; full of life, love, longing and loss, this is prose that lightly brushes against you, dancing with delights, yet leaves you emotionally a bit rawer, and appreciative of the colours that surround you.
Tin Man eloquently presents a picture of what is, and what could have been. From the moment that Ellis’s mother Dora eschews the entreatment of her husband to choose the bottle of whisky in the local club raffle in favour of a reproduction of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, there is a bright flash across a grey Oxfordshire day.
Ellis now works the nightshift in the paint shop of an Oxford car plant, having been taught by his father long ago how to smooth out dents so that no one can tell they ever existed. Ellis should have an artist but such a thing would never have been countenanced by his dad.
As he works, keeping himself to himself, he thinks back to his childhood and his earliest memories of his best friend Michael and his very first love affair. These are precious, fragile memories, which have more meaning than most of the rest of his life. Now widowed, Ellis remembers meeting his future wife, Annie, for the first time and how the three stayed together as a strong and enduing friendship until Michael’s grandmother dies and he leaves to go to London.
Then the story shifts to Michael’s perspective and memories and this feels so much like an anthem for doomed youth. Writing in Michael’s voice of his loves and life, and the Aids epidemic which is responsible for so much sadness and grief, Winman’s prose is evocative, touching and sometimes quite unbearably sad.
The smells and sights are rich and reflective, but what pervades is a sense of what was and what could have been had times been different and cultures perhaps a little less divided by class.
Tinman is a beautifully written, lyrical anthem to love, loss and remembrance. I feel richer for having read it.
About Sarah Winman
Sarah Winman grew up in Essex and now lives in London. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. Her first two novels were WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS . Tin Man was shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Novel Award.