Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Tinsmith

Finished July 30
The Tinsmith by Tim Bowling

This novel begins in the US Civil War, around the Battle of Antietam. Anson Baird is a doctor working for the Union Army. With a seemingly endless supply of injured man, Anson moved from one operation to the next, amputating, digging out bullets and stitching closed wounds. He has little time for sleep, and next to no assistance. So when he first notices a tall man in a torn uniform helping bring injured men to the medical area, he does so only to notice that he keeps bringing men in, unlike most who disappear quickly. When the man proves even more helpful by serving as a surgical assistant, he is very thankful.
When a civilian is killed in a shocking manner, and the body goes missing soon after, he doesn't connect it with the man until later when men come searching for the body. Once he's made the connection, he works to protect the man and give him a new identity. The man, previously John, now taking the identity of a soldier named William Dare.
We see backwards into John's life as a house slave, looked after by a slave family, and caught as a pawn between a violent and vindictive overseer and the culture he was born into. The story moves back and forth between first the war and John's past, and then many years later, the Fraser river in B.S. and John's past, as William Dare tries to save his fledgling salmon business by asking for Baird's help once again.
This is a story of race, of culture, of reputation, and men whose greed is larger than their morals.
I enjoyed the character of John/William Dare, a man who doesn't really fit in wherever he goes, and of Anson, a man who wants to do the right and moral thing.

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