Tin Man by Sarah Winman was all over booktube last year and was loved by so many of the wonderful people that I subscribe to. Of course, I bought it there and then and couldn’t wait to immerse myself in a book promising stunning writing, deeply engaging characters and emotions that left some reviewers with a tear in their eye. However, when it came to opening the book, I felt an odd sense of resistance – it somehow didn’t feel right. This may sound strange, but I felt like I had heard too much about it; I needed to almost forget some of what I had heard in order to have my own reading experience. So, a year on, I finally read Tin Man and oh my goodness, it lived up to my expectations and went far beyond; what an intensely emotional, personal read!
Tin Man is the story of two friends, Ellis and Michael. It is the story of their intense friendship and their first emotional and sexual feelings for each other. It is also the story of how complicated things become when we become adults. How loss, insecurities and how we deal with society’s expectations can consume us. How vital it is to truly know ourselves, and how true human connection is what matters most in the end.
Tin Man is just under 200 pages and I really don’t want to give any of the storyline away, so I’ll try and talk as generally as I can!
Van Gough’s Sunflowers: I’ve always loved Van Gough for his story as well as his work and his sunflowers are a beautiful leitmotif throughout this book, weaving in and out of the narratives and bringing them all together. I now understand why the book is yellow too😉It all begins when Ellis’ mum Dora falls in love with a print of the sunflowers, having won it in a raffle. I love it when she tells a young Ellis and Michael,
“I like to imagine how it would have been for him, stepping out of the train station at Arles into such an intense yellow light. It changed him. How could it not? How could it not change anyone?!”
Ellis and Michael: The vulnerability and tenderness of these characters, the contrast of their personalities, who, in the end, just want to belong. How I loved their quirks, their inner worlds, their passions and their dreams but also their darker edges and their failures.
The beauty and tenderness of Winman’s writing style: I loved how Winman catches moods and scenes in so few words. Here is just one example where I was instantly drawn in:
“We mapped out a future away from everything we knew. When the walls of the map were breached, we gave one another courage to build them again. And we imagined our home an old stone barn filled with junk and wine and paintings, surrounded by fields of wildflowers and bees.”
The sensitive, spot on portrayal of grief, lost opportunities and loneliness.
That sense of holding on to the past, of living there because it means so much that you can’t live in the present, whilst everyone else seems to be moving on. This spoke directly to my heart.
Dead Poets Society references: It is my favourite film of all time and the fact that there are references to it in Tin Man is the icing on the cake for me. If you haven’t seen it – YOU NEED THIS FILM IN YOUR LIFE. O captain my captain. Sigh.
The impact that small acts of kindness have: I am becoming more and more partial to books that are life affirming in their own way. Why? I need to believe in human connection, to believe that good is out there in everyday life – this world we live in often overwhelms me.
The ending: get the tissues ready for the beauty, hope, sadness and truth (just thinking about this has me on the verge of tears- all the feels. In the margins ( I love to annotate the books I read) I wrote:
This is love.