The Tin-Kin by Eleanor Thom

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The Tin-Kin by Eleanor Thom

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Laura Bailey
Reviewed by Laura Bailey
Summary: Beautifully written stories about multiple generations of a family which see the main character finding out where she really comes from. It's a book to fall in love with.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth and Co
ISBN: 978-0715639016

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Dawn is a single mother who has been avoiding a lot of things for a long time. When her aunt, who raised Dawn as a daughter, dies, Dawn finds the key to a cupboard which she was forbidden to look into as a child. Inside she finds clues to her family history, links to a Traveller Community, unearthing a journey that sees her finding her roots. We also witness her struggle to renew her complicated relationship with her family and her efforts to escape the ever-present memory of her abusive husband.

This book is not so much plot driven as idea driven. Essentially it is about the treatment of Travellers, presenting the injustices and setting the reader up as jury. It is also about family, about finding where you come from and the importance of the people around you. The book presents a vast number of different types of relationships, examining all of them with a cutting reality while still managing to leave you with a sense of hope.

I fell in love with this book. The writing was wonderfully lyrical, providing a contrast with the reality of the subjects covered without undermining their importance. This dreamy prose gave the whole novel a romantic feel that stopped the subject matter from getting too disheartening. It also meant that the book gives the reader a sense of atmosphere that goes beyond just getting involved in the plot.

It is written from multiple viewpoints, each one a different generation of Dawn's family. The older members of the family talk in incredibly dense Scottish vernacular, which was a bit problematic at first. I did get frustrated with its copious use at the beginning of the book and I felt that maybe the more dense sections should have come in a little later in order to give the reader a chance to acclimatise to the language a bit more. I had to put the book down for a while in frustration and have a bit of a rant at it when trying to read the third section because I couldn't work out what was going on. However, I did get used to the vernacular and after struggling through the first few sections I was reading it at a normal reading speed with no problem. This use of language was actually a really good way of defining the characters and was an important tool in terms of giving the reader an instant sense of the time period, which is imperative in a book which switches through the generations so much.

One other criticism that I would make is that on top of the Scottish language, which complicates things for the reader, the modern sections of the book do not have any speech marks. This seemed like a conceit too far. As a reader I like to do some of the work but Thom seemed to be asking a lot by disregarding so many standards.

Despite the fact that I do have a couple of criticisms of this book I can't recommend it highly enough and I am so glad that I persevered with it. It is beautifully written and Eleanor Thom is clearly an incredibly talented writer. I found myself Googling her to see when her next book will be out. I will definitely be queuing up to buy it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

It is difficult to pick another book which is similar to The Tin-Kin. However, if you liked The Tin-Kin for its dreamy prose style then you might try Burning Out by Katherine May described by reviewer Amy Taylor as 'a beautifully written, and deeply atmospheric first novel.'

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Buy The Tin-Kin by Eleanor Thom at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tin-Kin by Eleanor Thom at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Tin-Kin by Eleanor Thom at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tin-Kin by Eleanor Thom at


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