Sound the trumpets – I finished Barkskins. I had read several non-challenging things in a row – thrillers, memoirs, cereal boxes – so when I started it I thought “this is good but it may take me a while because it’s smart and literary.” Well, I started it on Saturday and read 400 pages by the time I went to work on Monday. (Remember – I have no kids, no responsibilities, no life.)
Wow. Logging and Canada are not things that are near and dear to my heart, though with the election shaping up the way it is Canada is looking pretty darn good right about now. Who would have thought that 700+ pages about those two would be so enthralling? And yes, we do go beyond Canada (New France) and visit Maine, Amsterdam, New Zealand, Nova Scotia and points in between. We also go beyond logging to examine nation building, entrepreneurship and sailing on the treacherous and open seas. I loved the histories, the family dynamics and the philosophies. I loved that this is no revisionist history – the time was presented as it was, even if our current eyes and understanding see the flaws in logic, the racism in actions, and the foibles of the characters.
Yes, there is irony in a book about cutting down trees which takes so many pages. I’m sorry for the loss of the trees but my time was surely well spent.
— Sydne, Atlanta
July 2016 Indie Next List
“This multigenerational saga follows the fortunes of the Sel and Duke families from early Colonial days to the present, spanning centuries and continents as they make their living not only from the bounty of the land but also from the ravaging and destruction of it. As always, Proulx is brilliant at creating a story that flows impeccably, and her nature writing is some of the most beautiful and evocative to be found in modern literature. This novel is an epic work, a fictional Silent Spring that will linger with readers long after completion.”
— Bill Cusumano (M), Square Books, Oxford, MS
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Best Novel A New York Times Notable Book A Washington Post Best Book of the Year From Annie Proulx--the Pulitzer Prize-- and National Book Award--winning author of The Shipping News and "Brokeback Mountain," comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world's forests. In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a "seigneur," for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters--barkskins. Rene suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi'kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years--their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions--the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse. Proulx's inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid--in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope--that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.