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The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson: Separating Fact from Fiction

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  57 ratings  ·  17 reviews
**Best Books of 2016 - Writers' Trust of Canada**
**National Post: Bestseller - Non-Fiction**

How did Tom Thomson die in the summer of 1917?

Was he shot by a poacher, or by a German-American draft dodger? Did a blow from a canoe paddle knock him unconscious and into the water? Was he fatally injured in a drunken fight? Did he end his life out of fear of being forced to marry
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 14th 2016 by Dundurn Press
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Debra Komar
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A better-than-average review of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the death of the great Canadian painter Tom Thomson. I have read many books on the subject and this is the most even-handed account available. Klages is not interested in producing a definite answer to the question of Thomson's death - he wisely leaves that to the audience to decide - but does a great job of tracing the origins of the narratives that persist in Canadian history. The book is better written than any of its pr ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Oh look, everyone, another book on Tom Thomson, which promises to "separate fact from fiction". Nothing new here. At the very least, there is nothing here that hasn't been done far better in Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and The Woman Who Loved Him

This isn't a bad book. It's a good enough book, in the sense that it covers all the salient points, brings forth a few nice photographs and re-argues all the facts. (We just can't seem to get enough of this Thomson fella here in
John FitzGerald
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The idea that Tom Thomson was murdered has been a staple of Canadian popular culture for decades, but until now it doesn't seem to have been the subject of serious historical inquiry. Well, now Gregory Klages, a historian at York University, has examined it. His book is a thorough and highly competent examination of purported evidence that Thomson was murdered, that (as some claim) he committed suicide, or that (as the inquest found) he died in an accident.

I won't spoil the experience of reading
Margaret Sankey
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
For a brief period between 1914-1917, Tom Thomson, working in remote Algonquin Park, Ontario, produced a series of canvases which redefined Canadian landscape painting. His death in 1917 sparked numerous conspiracy theories--from murder to suicide (over his pregnant girlfriend? despondency over being rejected by the WWI military?) which are staples of Canadian popular culture. Klages presents an extended exercise in document forensics as he lays out and then dismantles the theories using careful ...more
Jen Easter
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I opened this book with very little knowledge of Tom Thomson. I knew that he was a Canadian painter who had died tragically under mysterious circumstances. After reading this book I can now say that I now have a much better idea of the man, and the mystery and myths, surrounding his death.

Did Thomson commit suicide? Was he murdered? Or was it a tragic accident? These questions are explored throughout the book. The details of Thomson’s “many deaths” – including the discovery of a body in Thomson
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book so much that I really tried my best to take it slowly. This approach served me well, I think, because it was difficult, at times, to process the fact that most of what I've always "known" about Tom Thomson isn't necessarily true. A lot of the things I've taken for granted about his life and his tragic death are, in fact, based on hearsay, gossip, and outright fabrications. I won't spoil anything here, because it's best to let everything unfold as it does in this excellent boo ...more
Amy Moritz
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Amy, I smell Tom!"

September 2016 I made my first trip to Algonquin Park with Scott. Our first full day I booked a guided canoe trip. When asked if there was anything I wanted to see, I emphatically said "The Tom Thompson Carin!" Our guide, George, asked if I knew about Tom. I knew a little bit and George was excited that I was excited to hear the history and the mystery involving one of Canada's greatest native sons.

Scott got me this book for Christmas and once I sat down with it I could not pu
Liz Carr
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very well researched book. A very different perspective than I have read.
Very interesting. A good start into the Tom Thomson rabbit hole.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even if you aren't interested in the murder mystery itself this book is very useful as a guide to the evolution of the mythology surrounding Tom Thomson. The centenary is the ideal time for it as well.
The first section has brief summaries of Thomson's life, art, and the events of his last summer. It then moves on to the correspondence between Thomson's family, friends, and colleagues after his death. This also includes discussion of marketing Thomson's work.
The second section discusses the vari
Robin M
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was such a fun read and so informative!
I have always been interested in the Thomson mystery and wanted to find some clear understanding of the actual events surrounding his death.
I enjoyed it so much I was inspired to create a podcast based around this book for my (M.A.) digital history course.
Definitely recommend!
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
With a very academic style of writing, Klages accomplishes what he set out to do with this text, separating fact from fiction. Admittedly this the first Thomson book I have read, though as a Canadian I was already familiar with much of the folklore and mystery surrounding Thomson's death.
While there is a large part of me that wants the story of Thomson's death to be as fantastic as the gossip makes it seem, truthfully we will never know and Klages makes that point very clear. Klages does a thor
Alaina Cyr
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don't usually like to read non-fiction and I don't care about turn-of-the-century Canadian art/the Group of Seven. I gave this book a shot anyway, but it wasn't for me.

It did a great job of building my curiosity around the death of Tom Thomson, but then the details following were overly repetitive and much too exhaustive for my interest. It was easy to see what the author believed to be the cause of death from early on in the book, but it took an awfully long time to get there. The book could
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Klages book serves as a very informative review of the body of evidence surrounding Thomson's death and a review of the various publications that been written about Thomson's death.
It wasn't thrilling but it was interesting and as authoritative as one can hope for.
Other than the odd ghost story told at camps around Algonquin park I did not previously know the details of Thomson's death and thus I appreciated learning about the facts as well as the myths that have proliferated.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've grown up knowing about the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, particularly the myths and legends surrounding his death. In this book, Gregory Klages provides the reader with an excellent analysis of the historical facts, starting with Thomson's bio and examining how reports of his death changed through the years. ...more
Anita H
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Very well researched but going over the same set of events 15 different ways became a bit boring.
Joel Wittnebel
rated it it was amazing
May 17, 2020
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Feb 08, 2020
Karen McMullin
rated it it was amazing
May 26, 2016
william c conrad
rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2018
Bryanna B
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May 26, 2021
Sarah Adam
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Dec 30, 2020
Dennis Roberts
rated it it was ok
Jul 27, 2018
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Aug 05, 2020
paul summers
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Nov 21, 2020
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Jan 15, 2018
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Jul 04, 2020
Rose Dotten
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Oct 31, 2017
Brendan Linwood
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Dec 20, 2016
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In 2007-2008, Klages was Research Director for ‘Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy’, a book-length, bilingual, multimedia website offering transcriptions of historical documents and images related to Tom Thomson's life, art, and his death. The site is one of twelve produced by the ‘Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History’ project. In 2008, the project received the Canadian Histo ...more

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