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 Marvellous Ways with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.
Occasionally I read a book that reminds me why reading means so much to me. Much as that special song comes to represent to others an event or moment in their lives, it’s reading that influenced my formative years and continues to do so. Each decade of my life is marked by a few books that touch me and leave an indelible mark on my heart.
It’s not that you haven’t enjoyed the other books you have read, but some books speak to you with an exquisite tenderness and Tin Man by Sarah Winman is one of those books! It is that rare thing, perfect and hauntingly beautiful.
It tells of Ellis and Michael, who meet as children, become inseparable, grow into men and into their lives comes Annie. It deals with not only the fluid nature of their love and friendships, but confronts the reader with the reality of what it meant to be gay, as the Aids epidemic tore the Gay community apart. It talks of what it’s like for Ellis who should have been an artist, but who works in a car factory, hemmed in by masculine norms of what defined a man and the jobs real men did. Of Michael a writer, who follows the path he was marked out for, but seems always to be destined to settle for less than the love he deserves and yearns for. Then there is sweet, caring Alice, whose story threads itself through Michael and Ellis’s relationship.
The joy of Tin Man is the simple way it deals with love and identity. It’s not dramatic; the story is uncomplicated and yet, is tender and astonishingly intimate. Sarah Winman gives voice to their feelings with such searing intensity, that I was left bereft for days after I’d finished reading it. I fell in love with both Michael and Ellis, my heart ached for them and Alice, to the point it became one of only a handful of books to make me cry.
The beauty of Tin Man is that it takes LGBT relationships and weaves them into the very fabric of the story. They are there, because this is a story about love and friendship and the very thin line that divides the two, not just because a character is LGBT . When reading books that contain Gay, lesbian or bi-sexual people, it often feels that they are shoe horned into a story to fill some vague quota, not so in Tin Man. Ellis, Michael and Anna are caught up in the complicated feelings that define human love and this should not separate and define them just because of their sexuality.
Don’t read this book just because it has LGBT characters. Read it because it will break you and then heal you. Because it is a story about what it means to love and the joys of friendship. Because boys and men are capable of beautiful things and that love is not defined by the narrow confines of heterosexuality.
Sarah Winman was born in Illford, Essex. A British actress and author, her first novel When God Became A Rabbit became an international bestseller and won Winman several awards. Her second novel A Year of Marvellous Ways was published on 18 June 2015 and her third, Tin Man, on 27 July 2017 and shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Book Awards.
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