Parry Sound Books

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Good Literature for Children & Adults



Machines Without Horses by Helen Humphreys is a most wonderful little book. Anyone who has read books by Helen Humphreys knows that her prose is pitch perfect, her sentences works of art, and that reading her writing is simply delicious.

So, here we have Machines Without Horses, a novel based upon the life of Megan Boyd. Megan became a famous salmon-fly dresser in Scotland, her work highly sought after but her personal life one that appeared to be solitary and self-contained. Helen Humphreys wondered about this woman – wondered enough to think on who she might have been under the tweeds – what she held in her heart of hearts. Helen felt a connection with Megan Boyd – and you will as well as when you read this perfect little book.

Machines Without Horses is both a novel and a tutorial on writing. The first half of the book describes how the author approached the project, taking on the job of writing a novel based on what is known about the real life of the subject. There is what is known – and there is what can be supposed, and what can be imagined to make this woman live on the page – and in the hearts of the readers. In doing so Helen Humphreys, who is quite a private person, opens up to the reader much of her own life as she explores her own response to the woman she is writing about. And, all of it so beautifully wrought.


Completely by chance Tin Man by Sarah Winman was the book I picked up immediately after reading Machines Without Horses. And, again, I found myself entranced by a story of loss and love. The novel begins in 1950 when Dora Judd won a painting in a raffle – a copy of a Vincent Van Gogh painting of Sunflowers. To the disgust of her husband she places it prominently on a wall in the back room near the dining table – the brightest, happiest thing in the house. It is the painting and all it represented to Dora that is remembered by her son, Ellis, and his friend, Michael – then, and for the rest of their lives. When they are young men Ellis and Michael travel together to the south of France, to see the landscape painted by Van Gogh. It is a trip that stays with them, as they age, when they are together, or apart.

Tin Man is a story about love, and about how completely unfair life can be. It is a story that explores what it is to be human, and that to love is to be open to the pain of losing those you love to circumstance or death.

Machines Without Horse and Tin Man will break your heart – and leave you feeling so wonderful all at the same time.  


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