Book Reviews

Tinman – Sarah Winman

What keeps him alive, God only knows, the memory of living, I suppose


Tinman is the story of complex relationship between Ellis and Michael and also between Ellis, Michael and Annie. It is a tale of “once in a lifetime love” and profound loss. Ellis and Michael are best friends and may be more, but it is difficult to explore more sine the times do not allow humans to love who they want. Annie comes in the equation and strengthens their bond after she marries Ellis. Michael is never able to find the one true love that he is looking for and meets a tragic end. So does Annie. The loss of two of his dearest people leaves a void in Ellis’s life that he is unable to reconcile with. A replica of Van Gogh’s sunflower that Ellis’ mother wins in a raffle serves as both the symbol of defiance as well as hope.


 My thoughts on the book

Beautiful Portrayal of Relationships

Each character has a very strong and meaningful relationship with the other. Ellis and Michael start with a beautiful friendship which had the potential to evolve into more, but for the social norms of the time. Annie comes in between them, but she makes their bond stronger, instead of tearing them apart as happens conventionally. She helps them have a connection after her marriage with Ellis, despite the history that they share. Michael also has a strong connect with Dora, Ellis’ mother and his caretaker Mabel; both these women let the boys be as they were and did not try to weigh them down by the expectations of the society.

Contrasting writing styles in the first and second half

The writing is distinctly different in the first and the second half of the book. In the first half, it feels as if Ellis’ thoughts are put together haphazardly in form of words. His gaps are disjointed and full of gaps. This is also true of his mental state. He is battling feelings of insufferable grief and depression and hence is incapable of coherent expression.  His mind wanders between past and present as if he is trying to reason with himself the tragedy that has stuck his life. In contrast, the second half is written from Michael’s perspective when he was hale and hearty. He was also a journalist by profession and has complete awareness of his thoughts and feelings. These aspects are evident in the fluidity of writing and the clarity of expressions. This juxtaposition through the styles of writing is the author’s masterstroke.

As I grew older, I came to understand this woman was my mother’s freedom. We love who we love, don’t we?

Nuanced portrayal of sensitive issues

The writer has dealt with issues like homosexuality in a very sensitive manner. She highlights that we love who we love; but she has brought out the fact that it was criminal in that era and more than that people were ashamed to accept it themselves, like Ellis. She also includes the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and how it destroyed lives, it was an unspeakable ailment since people thought it inflicted only the homosexuals. Of course, the overall theme of the book is pain and suffering due to loss and that has been dealt very well.

This book will linger with you for long, as it did for me. I read it a few weeks ago, but had to write down my thoughts to let it out a little bit from my system. Read it for its heartbreaking beauty.

Overall rating : 4.25/5


2 thoughts on “Tinman – Sarah Winman”

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