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Reader Resources for The Tinsmith


  1. The surgeon, Anson Baird, loses his idealism over the course of the novel. Is this a fair depiction of a common human fate? Do we inevitably lose our idealism as we age? If so, why? And how can we try to keep it?
  2. The Tinsmith dramatizes the effect of American history on the history of British Columbia. Was this effect surprising to you? Is the novel making any point about current American–Canadian relations?
  3. A great deal has been written about the American Civil War, especially its famous battles. But The Tinsmith attempts to analyze the eerie, post-battle reality of the fighting. How successful is the author in describing this reality?
  4. Tim Bowling is widely known as a poet. In what ways can this novel be considered “poetic”?
  5. The Victorians had a very sentimental attitude toward life after death, viewing Heaven as a kind of Victorian home where everyone would meet up again and resume their earthly forms. Does Edney’s grief in any way seem familiar to you? Is the Victorian idea of an afterlife still a convincing one?
  6. How important is the true nature of John’s race? To John himself? To Anson? To the other characters in the book? And finally, to today’s reader?
  7. The pioneer salmon canning industry on the Fraser River was obviously colourful. Did you know anything about it before reading the novel? What does the novel gain by putting a famous event such as the Civil War in juxtaposition with the much more obscure history of the pioneer salmon canning industry? Why do you think the author made this juxtaposition?
  8. John is a mythic character. What does this mean? In what sense is John larger than life?
  9. Was the ending of the novel a surprise to you? Would you consider it to be uplifting or very dark?
  10. Tim Bowling’s writing style has been described as highly visual and scenic. Would this novel make a good movie? Why or why not?
  11. If you were casting actors to play Anson, John, and Edney, whom would you choose?
  12. Can you think of other novels set in British Columbia that you have enjoyed? Which ones? Who are your favourite BC authors?
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