Tin Man is, quite simply, a beautiful book. The story, about a friendship between two boys that blossomed into a form of unfulfilled love as they grew older, has a lovely, languid feel. It reminds me of Call Me By Your Name and other Merchant Ivory type films — where deep emotions are subtext barely glimpsed beneath a serene veneer.
Winman’s writing is quiet and deceptively restrained. There are moments throughout with the tone of a whisper and the emotional charge of a shout: Dora’s painting that kicks off the entire story, Ellis being forced to punch his father’s hands and join the car company, Michael dealing with his partner having AIDS, and so on.
I absolutely love the imagery of van Gogh’s sunflowers, and the copy that Dora won at an auction. In my absolute favourite passage, Ellis contemplates the contrast between the painting and its creator:
The original was painted by one of the loneliest men on earth. But painted in a frenzy of optimism and gratitude and hope. A celebration of the transcendent power of the color yellow. [p. 89]
The physical book as well is a thing of beauty, and a definite collector’s item. The sunflowers on the cover are streaked with goldleaf that makes the cover glimmer in the light. Strokes of gold literally gleam on the page, and create a feeling of transcendence.
The beginning (Dora’s painting) and the end (Michael’s section) were the strongest parts of the book for me. The middle confused me a bit, with the shifts in timelines and the fairly large cast of characters.
But overall, this is a beautiful, and beautifully written, book. It’s a great gift for a book lover, and a lovely story to lose yourself in on holiday.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.