This is almost a love story.
Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.
But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?
This is almost a love story. But it's not as simple as that.
“And 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. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.”
― Sarah Winman, Tin Man
This is what life feels like for Ellis. He has lost his wife 5 years ago and mourns her terribly. In his mind he recreates all the good times and simplest of times he’s had with her. Traveling the places they have been and retracing their steps. So much hurt and love encapsulated in his mind and heart.
Complicated it seems, or not….because his wife knew of “him”. Annie too liked Micheal, Ellis’s childhood friend….the one he had his first physical encounters with. The one that never leaves his mind and always tugs at his heart yet moves away and disappears after he marries Annie.
“This had always been the worst time when the quiet emptiness could leave him gasping for breath. She was there, his wife, a peripheral shadow moving across a doorway, or in the reflection of a window, and he had to stop looking for her. And the whiskey helped – helped him walk past her when the fire was doused. But occasionally she followed him up the stairs and that’s why he began to take the bottle with him, because she stood in the corner of their bedroom and watched him undress, and when he was on the verge of sleep, she leant over him and asked him things like, Remember when we first met?”
― Sarah Winman, Tin Man
Ellis is in search of the lost years. Sure he has seen many things and places and met many people. He’s enjoyed the finest and most exquisite things of life and contrary to that finds himself in the total opposite abyss at times. Numb. Alone. Reclused.
Will Ellis ever find out about Michael’s whereabouts? Will he seek him out again?
The plot in this book does not follow a straight line. Nor does it spell it out for the reader where exactly the narrative takes place at times. It jumps timelines and leaves gaps to fill or bridge by the reader’s imagination. Even though things are implied, one has to do a double take to not miss anything. It reads like the thoughts in someone else’s head. You just get snippets to create the whole picture.
Although it reads fluidly and delves insightfully into the emotional world and relationships of Ellis…and the love triangle...my difficulty lies in the gaps and time jumps to figure out. This way of reading is not my fortay.
There are some amazing passages that I highlighted where the prose was most exquisite and I loved. I am not sure if this is Sarah Winman’s usual writing style, but I would like to try another one of her novels. This was unlike other books I have read in the past and I am curious what other readers thought of it.