This is almost a love story.
Ellis and Michael are twelve 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?
This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.
“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.”
At 200 (small) pages, Tin Man packs a punch equal to a much larger book. Sarah Winman writes a story about two young boys and their evolving relationship through the years. She does an excellent job of exploring the complexities and intricacies of varying relationships we can experience. The representation is a refreshing take on how delicate and complicated it is to love someone. This aspect of the book was a major win and there were many quote gems throughout the book.
“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.”
I’m usually a big fan of shorter books but Tin Man fell flat for me. While the subject matter is relevant and insightful, the varying writing styles took away from what could have been a greatly moving book. I realize that I am in the minority with my opinion, but overall, I felt discombobulated and lost for a majority of the story. It took me a bit to grasp the writing style and get into the flow, for the first 25% I had no idea where Winman was going with the story. There were gaps in the timeline and lots of jumping around; many times, I had to flip back a few pages and re-read, thinking I had missed something. I read a review that said “it reads like the thoughts in someone’s head” and like a stream of consciousness, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to other people. The dialogue wasn’t written as a conversation; rather it was as if someone were relaying the conversation after it had taken place.
Overall, the whole book had a very heavy, despondent feel, but I think that was the author’s purpose. She shows the raw and painful side of love, but also the healing powers it is capable of. I really appreciate the inclusion of LGBTQ relationships, I just wish the book as a whole had impacted me the same way it did for others.
“I haven’t cried. But sometimes I feel as if my veins are leaking, as if my body is overwhelmed, as if I’m drowning from the inside.”
Thank you so much to Putnam Books for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. It is a pleasure to share my thoughts and feelings with my fellow bookworms. Get your own copy of Tin Man here.