It’s not often I read a book that honestly deserves the title of ‘bittersweet’; books that are marketed as such tend to be a bit twee or cloying, with sad children or tragic puppies. These books are not my cup of tea- and I drink a LOT of tea (both literally and metaphorically. Just run with the image.) I’ll also admit that I was a bit wary of this novel when I first heard about it, as I had really not liked God Was A Rabbit- but it was being raved about and the proof copy was a gorgeous hardback simply covered in a sunflower yellow fabric. I’m a sucker for lovely books, so I approached the book with optimism.
And, oh, what a lovely book it was.
It’s a story of sunflowers and discovery and love and Van Gogh. Of the life that we lead and the one we wish we could lead. Of relationships both long lasting and sweetly fleeting. I was hooked from the first sentence.
Ellis’ life is transformed when he meets Michael as a boy. What begins as a meeting of two boys reeling from parental loss becomes the most intense relationship of their lives; every part of each other entwined with the other, even after Ellis gets married to a force of nature called Annie, even when they are apart for years and Michael wrestles with his guilt. Through Ellis’ memories and Michael’s diary, we learn of the great sacrifices both men make and the lengths that they go to in order to learn who they are. I’m being deliberately vague in this review, because I want you to go and seek it out when it’s released next week and read it for yourself. It’s heartbreaking and cheering and astonishing.
It’s such a beautiful novel. As someone who is obsessed with color, I adored the descriptive passages (the novel hinges on a very famous painting- I’ll let you guess which one) and they always felt just right. It feels like I’ve read a painting, Winman using words instead of watercolours. Just utterly, utterly lovely. I’m so glad I read it.