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MisterHobgoblin

Tin Man

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Tin Man bills itself as "the most moving book I have ever read". It was good, but I wouldn't go that far.

 

Tin Man is a short novel that gives us two sides of a triangle - one told by Ellis, a middle aged panel beater at the Cowley car works, told in the 1990s and one told by Michael, a gay journalist whose life turns upside down in the 1980s as those around him fall victim to AIDS. Ellis and Michael had been childhood friends who welcomed Annie into their lives to form the third side of the triangle. 

 

Much of the novel is told in memories, so although there is a "current" story told in the moment, the back story some decades before is what matters. That back story was about childhood and youth, love and discovery. It was about forming a tight trio who could take on a hostile world dominated by stern parents and privileged students. This meandering back and forth over time can be quite tricky to navigate. It is not always well signposted and further complicated by the fragmented and non-linear nature of the "current" narrative. But at the same time, it's not a cryptic crossword and you can work it out.

 

There are great evocations of place - Oxford, London and France - from the 1980s and 1990s when I knew them well. And it is great to see East Oxford getting featured; most Oxford novels never venture far from ivy-clad quadrangles so the mention of the Leys, South Park, Divinity Road and Headington is very refreshing. The town perspective on the university is not heard sufficiently often and Sarah Winman presented it convincingly. By the same token, I thought Michael's portrayal of the London scene in the 1980s in the grip of AIDS was really convincing. Michael, for me, was the most realised character.

 

Even above this, the real gem was the opening sequence where Ellis's mother wins a painting (a replica of Van Gogh's sunflowers) at a raffle. This managed to convey hope and freedom from an oppressive marriage and the drudgery of poverty. The sunflower theme and colours come up as a leitmotif throughout the novel and, like the reproduction painting, are always somehow tainted or compromised. 

 

But where the novel fell short, I felt, was in its portrayal of the relationships. I never quite believed in the triangle, and never quite believed in Ellis. The other relationships seem to be well done, it is just this central one that isn't quite right. And that is a pity, because that is very much what the novel was supposed to be about and it lessened the impact of what was otherwise a really rather lovely book. 

 

****0

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"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 is Sarah Winman's third novel and shows that she is just getting better and better at her craft. it's a book about love and friendship and loss and coming through and is heartwarming and moving. It's short (I think, I read it on my Kindle and seemed to finish it in no time) and beautifully written, a sheer pleasure to read. No description will do justice to it, all I can say isread it.

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6 hours ago, Viccie said:

Sorry! Must have been a glitch as I looked it up!

 

It took a bit of finding, The search facility  here needs a bit of persistence. Lucky that luna spotted it.

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