Tin Man by Sarah Winman / ★★★★★
Five years after the death of his wife, Ellis lives in a state of loneliness. His childhood best friend, Michael, is nowhere in sight, but as Ellis falls back into memories, their lives together – and apart – begin to unfold.
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.
Tin Man is beautiful, quiet, and sad. When we first meet Ellis, we find a sad, desperately lonely man whose wife, Annie, has died five years before. His childhood love and best friend, Michael, whom we see pieces of in his memory, is conspicuously absent. Slowly, and gently, we learn the stories of Ellis’ and Michael’s lives.
When I think of ways to describe my experience reading this book, the words ‘gentle,’ ‘breezy,’ ‘warm,’ ‘soft,’ and ‘bright’ come to mind. This language of this book is so light, and easy, and yet Sarah Winman masterfully uses these elements to tell a story of such visceral sadness. Scenes of flowers and sunshine and warmth would make me feel aching loneliness. And yet- I’d still feel the warmth and the gentleness of it. It wasn’t “rain means sad and sunshine means happiness,” it was “sunshine exists in happiness and sunshine exists in sadness, too.”
In many books I read, I would say I’d describe the characters as “flawed characters who can be kind,” but in Tin Man I felt the characters were “kind people who are flawed.” Characters didn’t always do the best thing, or make the choices I wanted them to make, but there was always an undercurrent of kindness that I think really defined this novel. There’s a comment on the front of the copy I read that says, “Breaks your heart and warms it all at once,” and I found that to be very true.
It was a short read, and I didn’t cry, but it made me feel a really inexplicable, heavy sadness. Halfway through his novel I found myself in a kind of melancholy that was a little hard to shake, so perhaps don’t read this at night when you’re about to go to sleep and it’s just you and your thoughts. But it also really inspired me, and made me want to try to write more beautiful things of my own. This was a very sad, lovely book and I loved it.