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Book Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Book Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

When Sarah Winman’s Tin Man landed on my desk, I had no idea what to expect from the author’s third novel. It was a gorgeous, bright yellow hardback with an intriguing yet ambiguous blurb that gave very little away: “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 like those fifteen sunflowers, Tin Man sparkles with a timeless beauty that few other authors can invoke.

The story explores the relationship between two boys as they grow up and apart and back together, their relationship ebbing and flowing with the years. As boys, Ellis and Michael came into each other’s lives and were as close as two people could be. But those boys became men and those men met Annie, who later marries Ellis. The three of them share a tight bond but Michael pulls away for reasons he both understands and doesn’t, and when he returns it’s like nothing ever changed, except it has.

Part of the story is told through Ellis’ older eyes, as he recovers from a bicycle accident and muses over the two loves of his life. The other part is conveyed through Michael’s thoughts, revealing where he went when he ‘abandoned’ Ellis and Annie, and who he chose to spend the years in between with. The novel takes us through the streets of Oxford with Ellis, and across Europe with Michael, but it’s when they’re together, with and without Annie, that the heart of the tale beats the strongest.

“He thought they looked so happy, and he thought they were family, and he wanted to show that in the photograph. They were all that mattered on that hot sunny evening in June 1991.”

Tin Man is disarmingly lovely and unequivocally heart breaking; a melancholy love story between three people that plays out across various time frames and through more than one perspective. Sexual orientation doesn’t matter here; love is love – it’s cruel, it’s divine, it breaks you and puts you back together again, and all these different facets of emotion come across in perfect harmony. It’s impossible not to fall for these characters; they’re so real, so fragile, and so human.

There aren’t very many books like this and it makes the experience of reading Winman’s words so special. Her fiction runs along the page like poetry and she writes the type of sentences you want to read out loud because they roll off the tongue so beautifully. There’s so much feeling in this story and it’s all explored with such tender honesty. Every moment, big and small, feels impossibly important and the fact that it manages to have such an impact without spilling over the 200-page mark is testament to Winman’s excellent and emotive writing.

Forget every other novel released this month and just read Tin Man, it’s the perfect tale of love, loss and life.


Tin Man is published by Tinder Press on 27 July 2017

View Comments (2)
  • I read this book on my Kindle, ordered through Amazon. When I had finished the book I thought some pages were missing as it left so many questions unanswered for instance.

    How did Annie and Michael die together?
    No mention of this in the book how it happened or the impact on Ellis
    What happen to the Sunflower painting rediscovered in the loft left by Ellis father.

    I like Sarah Winman but was extremely disappointed in this book

  • They died in a car accident in Binsey having been to a Walt Whitman poetry reading. This is all explained at different times in the book. There is a whole scene where the police come to tell Ellis and he goes to see Annie’s body in the morgue. He can’t see Michaels body because he has sarcoma from having contracted AIDS so has to be isolated. At the very end Ellis says he’s not going with them.
    Which is why they died and he didn’t.
    Ellis takes the sunflower painting from his father’s house and keeps it.
    Most of the book is about the impact of their deaths on Ellis….

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