Photo (of Sarah Winman)By: Patricia Niven; G.P. Putnam's Sons
This will be one of the most beautiful, moving books you’ll ever experience ... and "Tin Man" is a reading experience not to be missed. It is as close to literary perfection as one can get, destined for classics status. Author Sarah Winman paints a loving portrait of a lonely, middle-aged blue-collar worker, Ellis, and the three people that most impacted his life. This includes his late mother, his wife, and his best friend Michael whom he fell in love with during his formidable late teen years. Although his love for Annie and their eventual marriage is fully realized and embraced, his past with Michael is undeniable, having woven into his heart and soul.
This is as much a story about love as it is about unrequited love; about life and loss and lessons learned. This is also about art and creativity in the face of the most mundane. Ellis is a skilled laborer at a car plant, a tin man. Born of a stifled artistic mother who gave affection freely and encouraged his creative side, now at 45-years-old Ellis often wonders how he got to the point in his life where his artistic inclinations were completely swallowed up by the drudgery of a factory job he excels at, yet despises. Ellis aches with loneliness, he finds it near impossible to make real human connections. How he reached this point in his life, and how or if he is able to navigate his way out of it, is the journey of this novel we are privileged to take. It is artistically crafted characterizations and a strong sense of their place in the world draw the reader in. Although the two main characters are men, this is not a male-centric novel because at its core is the strength that the female characters bring to the story and the men. It is the women of "Tin Man" who prop up every male character, imbuing them with purpose, morality and courage. They are in effect supporting characters, but what supporting characters they are. What on the surface appears to be simplicity of a few key players and their relationships, is actually layers of complexity deeply felt and gorgeously presented. The use of prose is both subtle, yet profound and completely intoxicating.
He remembered how the floorboards had just been delivered and he sat out in the garden with a beer, looking up at the sky, noticing its stillness, thinking how beautiful it would have been to be in a plane right then, the three of them again, heading toward a new horizon. He remembered music that night- Chet Baker, trumpet not vocals- and he remembered thinking how lucky he was to love them ... That was the world he inhabited between the time of it happening and the time of him knowing. A brief window not yet shattered, when music still stirred, when beer still tasted good, when dreams could sitll be hatched at the sight of a plane careering across a perfect summer sky.
Delivered in small packaging, and is just under 200 pages, "Tin Man" is a quick, easy-flowing read, but do not be deceived its brevity. It may be petite, but it packs a powerful punch, with an epic-like feel. Winman is a British writer and actor who resides in London. Her first novel, When God Was a Rabbit became an international bestseller. Its follow-up, A Year of Marvelous Ways also received critical acclaim.