Friday, January 19, 2018

Tin Man – Sarah Winman: review

Tin Man – Sarah Winman
--reviewed by Divya Dubey

[Published in India Today mag, Sep 8, 2017:]

After the huge success of her first two novels, When God Was a Rabbit and A Year of Marvellous Ways, Sarah Winman has returned with her third novel, Tin Man, a rare gem and literary feat for any writer. The opening line says, ‘All Dora Judd ever told anyone about that night three weeks before Christmas was that she won the painting in a raffle.’

The painting in question is a cheap copy of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers that Dora chooses over a bottle of whisky in defiance of her husband’s wishes at the event. The painting of sunflowers is a recurrent motif in the book as its possession passes from Dora to her son Ellis and later his friend Michael. It is symbolic of ‘the life she wanted: Freedom. Possibility. Beauty.’

Right after this prologue Dora disappears and the stage is taken over by two other characters: Ellis and Michael. The narrative shifts from the former to the latter and then back to the former. Ellis is forty-five in the initial chapters and works at a Car Plant at Cowley Road, Oxford, repairing dents with the proficiency and love of an artist. As a child he wanted to be an artist and had his mother’s encouragement. But after her death his father forced him to take up a job.

When Michael enters his life in his teens, Ellis discovers love. Michael is both his best friend and lover. Michael’s relationship with Dora is that of two equals, both intellectuals and art lovers. Nothing in the book is overly stated; the reader is left to read between the lines. And then Annie enters the lives of the boys. Both Ellis and Michael fall in love with her, though she chooses to marry Ellis. Michael vanishes from their lives – to return much later.

Sarah Winman
This multilayered narrative brings several works to mind to compare and contrast with, including Bill Hayes’s Insomniac City, Anais Nin’s diaries, especially Henry and June and even Ken Follett’s historical novel, A Dangerous Fortune. This novel beautifully explores the themes of love, longing, loss and the easy acceptance of all three. The poetry lies not in the novel’s eroticism or exploration of sexuality, but elsewhere – in the pursuit of liberty and art. The author says much without saying much.

No comments:

Post a Comment