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Barkskins by Annie Proulx
  

Barkskins

Literary Fiction   Family Drama   Historical Fiction   Reading Groups   Summer Reading   eBook Favourites   
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For the Wolf Hall readership, this is a huge historical novel to immerse yourself in. A dramatic, violent, absorbing, long read for which you need to put aside serious time to devour. You will find it difficult to put down. Charting the lives of two families, the Sels and the Duquets from 1693 to 2013, it tells of the rape of the Canadian natural resources, namely timber and fur but predominantly timber. Hard men made fortunes with little regard for anything but power and wealth, certainly not for their workers’ lives or limbs. The first of the immigrant Sels married an Indian; their offspring are then trapped between two cultures. As you would expect, there is a huge number of characters for characters is what Proulx is all about. This is a truly impressive work detailing the destruction of the forests to the point of ecological disaster. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

If you like Annie Proulx you might also like to read books by Alistair MacLeod, Barbara Kingsolver and Carol Shields.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. Click here to read the full reviews.

  • Ed Robson - 'With the publication of Barkskins, Annie Proulx can justifiably lay claim to the title of America’s greatest living writer.'
  • Ann Peet - 'Magnificent, epic novel...An amazing feat of the imagination!'
  • Catherine Jenkins - 'The Great American Novel of our time, which considers the lives of indigenous inhabitants against a backdrop of deforestation.'
  • Sarah Musk - 'A magnificent book detailing just over three hundred years of Canadian history through the eyes of two very different families descended from the French settlers from the late seventeenth century.'
  • Jane Gilman - 'Greed, love, lust, revenge, sorrow and compassion. Those that desecrate and those that nurture, this novel has it all. Proulx fans will be delighted and I am sure this will gather her many more.'
  • Sheila Johnson - 'If you like long historical family sagas then this is your sort of book.  It is a long story.  Probably the longest I have ever read and I am 67!!'
  • Andrea Rayner - 'This is an epic book. It is monumental both in size and in subject matter...But perhaps most striking of all, is the author’s love, implicit in the language, of a ravaged landscape.'
  • Humaira Kauser - 'A complex read that took me a while but was generally good.'
  • Alfred Nobile - 'A difficult subject handled by a very competent writer. Though I enjoyed this book I much prefer her shorter fiction.'
  • Val Rowe - 'This is probably Annie Proulx's most magnificent novel ever and one to grace people's bookshelves for decades to come.'
  • Kathryn Whitfield - 'An amazing powerful story.'
  • Annette Woolfson - 'How I wanted to love this novel. Parts of it were stupendous - beautiful prose, characters full of passion and tenacity but they, like young seedlings on the forest floor, were nearly starved of light.'
  • Paula Dennan - 'An epic and meticulously detailed novel about the destruction of the world's forests, that sadly lacks in character.'

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Synopsis

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017 A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR From Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-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.

Reviews

'An ambitious novel of extraordinary power that deserves to win the biggest literary prizes and confirms Proulx as a more gifted writer than many of those deemed great American Novelists' ***** Sunday Express

'Magnificent ... might be her best book yet'
Anthony Doerr

'Wonderful ... A huge and brilliant novel, which takes us back to the uncompromising splendour of the natural world, and affirms Proulx's reputation as one of the greatest and toughest prose stylists writing today'
TLS

'Truly compelling ... I quickly devoured it ... Barkskins stays with you'
Stylist

'An enthralling story ... Forest ecology, indigenous culture, sea voyages, Dutch culture, colonial and Maori culture, the logging industry: all these subjects and many more are revealed through the adventures of her characters'
New Statesman

'Proulx's commanding epic about the annihilation of our forests is nothing less than a sylvan Moby-Dick ... Proulx's commanding, perspective-altering epic will be momentous'
Booklist

'Many of the fine qualities we have come to look for and expect in Proulx's writing are in evidence in Barkskins. There is comedy, grotesquery and quirkiness mixed in with startling moments of sadness and suffering ... This is a big, ambitious novel that offers a new and cleverly indirect way of thinking about American history'
Financial Times

'The pacing of her narrative, with each generation reflecting the further depredations of man against nature, its impact on the indigenous population and the twists and turns of colonial power, delivers a slowly gathering power, accented with the dread of irrevocable change'
Guardian, Book of The Week

'Such is the magnetism of Proulx's narrative that there's no resisting her thundering cascade of stories'
Washington Post

'Deeply rewarding'
Good Housekeeping

About the Author

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honours include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story Brokeback Mountain, which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. She lives in Seattle

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Book Info

Publication date

11th April 2017

Author

Annie Proulx

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    recommendations

Publisher

Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Format

Paperback
736 pages

Categories

Literary Fiction
Family Drama
Historical Fiction
Reading Groups
Summer Reading
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9780007232017

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