The Knackered Parent's Book Club reviews 'Tin Man' by Sarah Winman

I am writing this review from my kitchen table, surrounded by amazon boxes that my husband and I frantically ordered when the pressure of Christmas became all too much. This month's book, Tin Man, is dwarfed by this physical representation of my conformity to consumerism. But buying things makes you happy right? Well it actually does make me a little bit happy, but this leads me to the existential question 'What is happiness?' My brain is now actually hurting, I've been up since four (in the morning), please excuse my ramblings.

So, Tin Man is BEAUTIFUL. The novel starts in 1950 Oxford, when a young, pregnant Dora wins a painting in a raffle, a Van Gogh Sunflowers replica. The vibrant colours of the painting represent to Dora 'a life of colour and imagination' which are in contrast to the 'grey' of her everyday life with her husband. We then move to 1996 to a middle aged Ellis (Dora's son). A photograph shows Ellis, with his two friends, Annie and Michael 'they look happy, they really do. Not just because they are smiling, but because there is something in their eyes, an ease, a joy, something they share.' This description of happiness is so well crafted! I'm pretty sure I didn't look like this when I received my Amazon packages.

The relationship between Ellis, Annie and Michael made me deeply nostalgic for my university friendships and for that time in my life where I believed anything was possible. I was with people who really got me and shared a love for life and an optimism for the future. What I found so moving about Tin Man was the hope and potential and vibrancy of the three friends and the University City of Oxford, which promised happiness and endless summer nights and tolerance; contrasted with the foreboding shadow of the factory, the prejudice shown by Ellis's father, the inability to follow neither his heart or his dreams of becoming an artist. Their relationship fractures, they lose their 'ease, their 'joy'.

Tin Man is full of ghosts, memories of times and people that can't be had again. But how do we cope with that? Ellis reflects on his relationship with Michael at the end of the novel, 'We did have time. We had so much more than many do.' He feels that he might come to accept that.

Let's try and get a bit of that 'ease' and 'joy' back this Christmas. I would say try to live in the moment, but is that an impossible ask?

Right, I'll see you the other side of Amazon mountain.....

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