by Sarah Winman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 214 Pages
Release date: July 27, 2017
Blurb via GoodReads:
A novel celebrating love in all of its forms and the little moments that make up the life of an autoworker in a small working-class town.
This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.
Ellis and Michael are twelve-year-old boys when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.
But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?
Tin Man is a love letter to human kindness and friendship, and to loss and living.
I had a… complicated relationship with this book. This was a story of first loves, heartache, and loneliness, and while I was drawn into the emotions of the characters, I felt less so with the story itself. (Was there much of a story? It felt rather thin, honestly, even taking into account the short length.) Winman’s writing style was at times quite lyrical and melancholy, full of quotable moments such as this: “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.”
However, the narrative structure was endlessly frustrating to me. The novel bounces around time seemingly without regard to coherency. It creates a stream of consciousness effect which I suppose was meant to draw the reader into Ellis and Michael’s heads, but the lack of clarity instead had the effect of drawing me out of the story, particularly in the first half of the book, which is told from Ellis’ perspective. (The latter half, from Michael’s perspective, seemed much more coherent.) Combined with Winman’s eschewing of the use of quotation marks, trying to make sense of what could have been a quite lovely book felt like somewhat of a chore.
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.
I adored the relationships in this book, and I don’t at all regret reading it. However, I have to confess I’m a bit confused by the number of five-star rave reviews on GoodReads. To me, it felt like a novel which was certainly great at moments, but overall, a bit lacking.
Have you read Tin Man or other works from Sarah Winman? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!