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A poignant novel set mainly in Oxford

15th April 2018

Tin Man by Sarah Winman, a poignant novel set mainly in Oxford (and London and The South of France)

A slim novel that charts the friendship – nay, something deeper, the relationship – between Ellis and Michael, and then Annie when she becomes Ellis’s wife.

A poignant novel set mainly in Oxford

A poignant novel set mainly in Oxford

Photo: Art.com

Tin Man? There are references to The Yellow Brick Road and of course to the eponymous character of the title in the Wizard of Oz. As the characters forge ahead, there is darkness but also enlightenment and hope. Yellow, the colour of positivity, is a leitmotiv, embodied in Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting, cherished by Ellis’s mother. After her premature death it eventually comes into Ellis’s possession. Fifteen sunflowers bring pleasure to all those who feast their eyes on this masterpiece – in this case a very good copy held dear in Ellis’s household..

Ellis is a panel beater at the Cowley car plant, and perhaps that, too, is a nod to the book’s title, he is skilled at smoothing out the small dents in the metal of the cars, perhaps even in life itself. He is a stifled artist, who was forced by his authoritarian father to take a “proper job”. He cycles with regular monotony on night shift to and from his place of work.

As youngsters Ellis and Michael are truly good friends and a trip to the South of France sees them exploring new intimacies, but Ellis is not really ready for a committed passionate gay encounter and thereafter their paths sadly diverge.

There is so much loss around for these two men as they move into adulthood and into the more mature years of their life. How they manage their grief following various life events makes for the two parallel stories in the novel.

Oxford is a recognisable backdrop, and the author also evokes the heat and colours of the South of France.

It is a multi-layered book that has merit at any level the reader chooses. There is a veil of melancholy across the narrative that feels poignant and real. Recommended.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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