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Tin Man EXPORT Paperback – January 1, 2017
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The only character of any interest; Dora, the mother, who threatens to kill her husband if he takes down her picture disappears after the first few pages. And quoting Whitman's, "Captain, my Captain ..." several times reduces Whitman rather than raises the novel.
Ellis and Michael meet at age 12 and develop a deep and special bond, slowly falling in love with one another. But then years later Ellis marries Annie and Michael gradually fades from their lives.
In the present narrative, Ellis is a 45-year-old widower, lonely and mourning the loss of the two people who mattered most to him.
Tin Man is about what happened in the time between—and how Ellis ultimately finds the strength to move forward. At his lowest, he finds some of Michael’s old journals, and discovers how Michael spent those absent years. Through these journal entries, the full picture is slowly revealed
It’s refreshing to come across a book like this with characters who genuinely love and cherish each other. The common tropes of bitter jealously and betrayal are absent here, in spite of the complex relationship dynamics.
Winman’s prose is infused with bittersweet, melancholy nostalgia. Her characters find hope and love in the small moments that make up a life. For such a compact novel, there’s no shortage of joy, heartache and love in its many forms.
Two English boys fall in love and into intimacy during the time of AIDS. Most of the novel is divided into two large sections, each focused on one of the boys, with the other boy in the near-background. The story, of course, cannot end happily, but the unhappiness is deep and inhabits the whole book. As does the idea of beauty. “Men and boys should be capable of beautiful things” proclaims one of the three compelling women at the center of this book. But older and younger women are also capable of beautiful things, and to me it was astonishing - bordering on the unbelievable - that these three - a grandmother a mother and a wife - should so actively support and underwrite the boys’ love. “Go find him,” the wife of one of the boys, now middle-aged and discontented, tells her husband.
The author makes this all work beautifully (that word again), even as she injects magic into the realism. This is a novel to re-read and treasure.
Top reviews from other countries
Tin Man portrays love in all its forms, friendship and loss between three people: a young woman, Annie, and two men Ellis and Michael. It is told in two parts from the point of view of the two men and Annie's story is told through their eyes. It is written in the sharpest clearest prose. No word is wasted and yet the reader understands everything. The setting is Oxford between the 1970s and 1990s and the first part of the book is written from Ellis's point of view as a young man working at a car factory in Cowley. He remembers meeting Michael when they were twelve years old.The boys become inseparable friends, their relationship morphing into something stronger during their adolescence. Then Ellis falls in love and marries Annie. In the second half of the book, Michael disappears into a life of destructive gay relationships during the AIDs crisis.
For me there is much poignancy in all the characters' stories but most of all Annie's even though she is not given her own voice in the narrative.
Sarah Winman writes like a poet eg "What's a complement? Ellis asked. Complementing colours are ones that make the others stand out. Like blue and orange, said his mother. Like me and Ellis, said Michael. Yes, she smiled. Like you two." “And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.”
Please, just read this book. You won't regret it.
For a short book (~200 pages), Tin Man packs a powerful punch. Every sentence matters. Every page is consequential. There are no frills in this book. I found myself writing on the margins, “so pretty”, “beautiful” and “wow”.
<i>And I wonder what the sound of heart breaking might be. An I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.</i>
<i>And he remembered thinking he would never meet anyone like him again, and in that acknowledgment, he knew, was love.</i>
<i>And I asked you why you were staring at me.
And you said, I’m working if I should take a chance on you.
And I said. Yes. Yes, is the only answer.</i>
<i>There’s something about first love, isn’t there? She said. It’s untouchable to those who played no part in it. But it’s the measure of all that follows, she said.</i>
The book is full of gems like these. Unforgettable prose describing unforgettable characters. Definitely, a new all-time favorite of mine up there with Year of Wonders, The Corrections, Middlesex, Call Me by Your Name, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, Bright Shiny Morning, H is for Hawk and The Picture of Dorian Gray, Let the Great World Spin to name a few. Highly recommend it.
Tin Man is a tale of “a once in a lifetime” love and profound loss. The story explores the relationship between Michael and Ellis and then between Michael, Ellis and Annie. The first part of the book presents the story from Ellis’s view and the second from Michael’s view. Annie is the thread that helps these dear friends maintain a beautiful bond in adulthood despite the events of their adolescence that would have made it very uncomfortable to do so. Van Gogh’s painting Sunflower forms the artistic foundation of the book, and ironically becomes a symbol of defiance as well as hope.
Wieman’s nuanced writing does justice to very sensitive topics like sexuality, death and the trauma of loneliness. She also uses an adequately compassionate tone for the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and the sufferings of those inflicted. The sentences are really short, especially in the first half of the book. It is symbolic of the void in Ellis’s life left by Annie and Michael and the muddle of emotions that he is going through as deals with his loss. The readers will feel a more composed writing in the second half of then book, because it is from Michael’s perspective, when he was trying to take measure of his life in light of his sexuality and the events that shaped him to be who he was. This juxtaposition through the style of writing was, in my opinion, a masterstroke from the writer.
This is the kind book that takes a while to grow on the readers, especially because of the taciturn nature of the first half. But when its firmly engraved in your psyshe, it will leave you with a lingering feeling of grief and compassion for those who lost because of who they were and who they chose to love. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it was a strong and impactful one!