By Sarah Winman
It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things. And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,who are inseparable. And the boys become men,and then Annie walks into their lives,and it changes nothing and everything.Tweet
Read with Gloucester Book Club. This is the reason I read....for times such as this when a book moves me to tears. Winman writes exquisitely, she uses no unnecessary padding, and manages to say so much in about 250 pages. Achingly beautiful. If you read just one book this year, make it this one.
This is a story without plot: it concentrates on two main characters, Ellis and Michael, and the book is divided into two main sections where first Ellis, and then Michael, narrates their relationship over the years from boyhood, through adolescence and, ultimately, death. Neither boy has a happy or secure childhood so they turn to each other for friendship, emotional support and, briefly, sexual experiment. They have very different personalities: Ellis is introverted, unable to express deep feelings, afraid of his father; Michael is more outgoing, unconventional. Ellis is straight, Michael is gay. Supposedly the book hinges on nine days in France when they went on holiday together as teenagers and had full sex for the first time. Michael dreams this may be the chance to start a new life as a couple: Ellis never entertains the idea, in later years describes those nine days in an innocent reconstruction of what happened, and lies to his wife, Annie, about his relationship with Michael. Michael knows that he will never be the one to unlock Ellis's heart, admits he will never fall in love again in the same way as he loved Ellis. Ellis meets and falls in love with Annie and the second half of the book recounts a rather strange, and not convincing, account of this threesome, this trio of very different people. It is implausible that Annie, with her suspicions of the extent of her husband's relationship with Michael, would have acted in the way Michael describes her. Another theme of the story is the spread of AIDS amongst the gay community and the devastating effect it had on the lives of gay men. The motifs of the book are loneliness, bereavement, and struggles with the expression of love. There are several female characters in the book but they only exist in terms of their relationship with Ellis and Michael.
A very sensitively written novel about sexual identity, love and friendship, families and loss. A poignant tale narrated by the two male protagonists that had me enthralled from the start. Winman's writing is absolutely beautiful and hits just the right tone for the story she's telling. I found it totally compelling, occassionally funny but mostly achingly sad. A fantastic read.
This is a beautiful and evocative little book. The writing is sparse and beautifully constructed. I especially like the way she draws out her character each one of them are vivid and interesting. It is a quiet little book about essentially ordinary people but i found myself totally immersed in their lives. I like all her books but this one is definitely my favorite
Sarah's best one yet - this was just wonderful. I read it pretty much in one greedy, emotional sitting. You can’t help but fall in love with these characters and lose yourself in the story. I cannot recommend enough.