Tin Man by Sarah Winman
|Tin Man by Sarah Winman|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A story built on bleak beauty that is still uplifting and life affirming - a 10* novel squeezed into a 5* rating.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: July 2017|
|Publisher: Tinder Press|
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2017
Ellis is a tin man – someone who practices the under-esteemed art of panel beating. He can remove a dint, dent or blemish by expertly applying force so that you can't even feel where the mark was. If he has to choose what would define his life, though, it wouldn’t be his job. It would be Michael and Annie. Michael, the lad he grew up with and Annie who completed their triangle, changing 'everything and nothing'. Now only Ellis remains…
If you thought that Sarah Winman reached the pinnacle of her talent with When God Was A Rabbit, then this could prove you enthusiastically wrong. Tin Man is so layered, so clever, so great-work-in-a-small-package it's just… well… amazing. You want more of a review than that? Ok, where shall we begin?
On the face of it this is a simple, short tale of three people and those who peripherise their lives. Michael and Ellis meet as children, each from a broken home and each being adopted to a lesser/greater extent by the ebullient no-nonsense Doris.
The two lads form an inseparable friendship, Michael providing the calm and life-grabbing joy that transforms Ellis. So what happens when Annie comes along? How will the colour of her life fit in with the complementary shades of Michael's and Ellis'?
Indeed colour is one of the links that Sarah uses cleverly to transform this meal-starter sized book into a hugely satisfying banquet. We soon pay attention to each morsel as we realise no line, no comment is for nothing. There are subtle connections beneath the surface with The Wizard of Oz in the form of someone searching for his heart. There's also plenty for those who don't want to dig and just let the story flow.
The Van Gogh print Ellis' mum chooses as a raffle prize isn't just a signal of her independence from her oppressive husband. (I've never cheered out loud so early in a novel before!) Van Gogh, his brother Theo and the French countryside will reappear to add meaning to memory, capturing our imaginations on the way.
This author also has a gift for layering repeated moments to cause shoulder-shaking crescendos. For instance those of us who when reading Tin Man were reduced to blubbery by the Walt Whitman poem O Captain! My Captain! during the film Good Will Hunting will relive the tears in a different way. Sarah uses the poem dexterously, allowing it to pop up from time to time, building the meaning and literary memories for us so that when that final appearance comes… Tissues at the ready!
Sarah is multi-talented and crops up in the most unexpected places, not only writing fiction but also as an actress in such well-loved series as Silent Witness and Call the Midwife. Yet, for me, whenever anyone mentions Sarah Winman now, I'll think of Van Gogh, the colours and warmth of France and a three-cornered friendship that can still cause tear-stained emotion and heart-warming joy long after the story finishes. If ever there was a 10* novel squeezed into 5*, this is it.
(Thank you so much Tinder Press for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: To begin with, if you haven’t read either of Sarah's previous novels - A Year of Marvellous Ways or the aforementioned When God Was A Rabbit treat yourself. If you're already a fan, another treat awaits from another author in the shape of Rain Falls On Everyone by Clar Ni Chonghaile.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tin Man by Sarah Winman at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tin Man by Sarah Winman at Amazon.com.
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