Monday, September 17, 2018
Published May 2018 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: from my local library
This is almost a love story. But it's not as simple as that. Ellis and Michael are twelve-year-old boys 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?
That’s not quite right. This is absolutely a love story. It’s just an unusual love story, complicated by loss, thwarted desire, and sacrifice.
The Guardian says Tin Man “is a story about alternative lives that might have been lived had circumstances been different.” Agreed. What if Ellis had been allowed to study art instead of being forced by his abusive father to work in a car factory? What if both Michael’s and Ellis’ mothers hadn’t died? What if Michael and Ellis had stayed abroad instead of returning to Oxford? What if there had been no Annie?
In just over 200 pages, Winman illustrates the many ways our lives could be different “if only” and how many ways there are to love someone. The first half of this book is told from Ellis’ perspective, looking back on his life with Annie and Michael. Ellis is a man so filled with sadness it is palpable but he is finally trying to work his way back to a better place when he is hit hard with the past. The second half of the book is Michael’s story which is filled with loss, fear, and longing.
Winman has written her story in such a way that it evolves something like a mystery, so it’s hard to say much about the book without giving away too much. This is unlike any book I’ve read before but I can’t help but think that it’s a story that’s been lived by too many people which is part of what makes it such a poignant story.
*On a side note, this is the second book I’ve read recently that involves gay men. I haven’t gone out of my way to look for them which makes me hope that their stories are starting to be considered “mainstream” and no longer a separate category of books.