Title: Tin Man
Author: Sarah Winman
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Australia/Tinder Press
Published: 1st March 2018 (25th July 2017 earlier edition)
Synopsis: The unforgettable and achingly tender new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 COSTA NOVEL AWARD
The beautiful and heartbreaking new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.
‘Her best novel to date’ Observer
‘An exquisitely crafted tale of love and loss’ Guardian
‘A marvel’ Sunday Express
‘Astoundingly beautiful’ Matt Haig
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.
TIN MAN sees Sarah Winman follow the acclaimed success of WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and A YEAR OF MARVELOUS WAYS with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.
Ellis and Michael have been friends for as long as they can remember, a life time of friendship, of mutual respect and a desire to support each other, ad remain close to each other. Theirs is a friendship that blossoms into a little something more, until they are caught – but their friendship remains intact, and Michael will always love Ellis in a variety of ways. Then, one day, Annie, a book lover, comes into their lives, and the bonds of friendship, love, trust and respect grow. Until tragedies strike the group, all three of them, and so their touching story of acceptance and tragedy is told, first through the eyes of Ellis, then a letter from Michael, explaining things, revealing his true feelings and finally, Ellis closes the story. It is an ending of realism, where the unavoidable and unpredictable comes to light and worlds are shattered, and where the story has hope and friendship, the ending shows that nothing in life is promised, that nobody is immune from the tragedies of life.
It is a story of love, but not just romantic love. The love Ellis, Annie and Michael have for each other as friends, and as the family they’ve created, is just as strong and just as important. They worry for each other, they respect each other, they would do anything for each other.
Sarah Winman has sensitively dealt with issues surrounding HIV, and LGBTQI+ representation with Michael, and the battles he would have faced during childhood and adulthood, with a sad end to his story, yet at the same time, realistic as he explores who he is, and his place in the world.
What I liked about the romantic elements in this novel was that they were realistic. Representations of unrequited love – for anyone – often seem rare in literature. For Michael, not being able to love Ellis as he marries Annie, is hard, but he still has their love as friends. I think this was important to show all these aspects of love as it made the characters more believable and relatable.
At the heart of the book is Annie, who brings Michael and Ellis back together, years after the two young men had an affair together and were ripped apart by families and a society that didn’t accept that behaviour. I loved that Annie did – she allowed them to be who they were, and her acceptance and encouragement was very touching. At the same time, Ellis has to come to terms with time lost with Michael, with Annie and acceptance and letting go – I felt this was more of the focus than the romance, and perhaps why it made the story so powerful – it showed that love isn’t the perfect kind we see in movies all the time, that life isn’t perfect, and at the intersections of life and love, things can get very messy, very painful and very unpredictable. Ellis didn’t choose to fall for Annie and Michael – he simply did. This aspect is at the same time simple and complex – that he simply did shows how feelings just happen, whilst the complexities of how he dealt with this were subtler but gave the story the gravitas and emotion it needed.
Though their lives are tinged with tragedy, the story is still hopeful and positive. People can move on and find acceptance, and those who resisted once can accept difference where they might not have before. It is the story of a generation who lived vastly different lives in a post-war period, were convention and tradition were at the forefront, and any deviance from it was punished and disrespected. Evoking these emotions has created a strength of narrative and character that will hopefully mean these stories are remembered,
I enjoyed this touching story, and I hope others will too.
Sarah appeared at the Adelaide Writer’s Festival this morning, the 5th of March at 9.30AM.