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Barkskins (2016)

by Annie Proulx

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,5268211,646 (3.78)1 / 182
"Barkskins opens in New France in the late 18th century as Rene Sel, an illiterate woodsman makes his way from Northern France to the homeland to seek a living. Bound to a "seigneur" for three years in exchange for land, he suffers extraordinary hardship and violence, always in awe of the forest he is charged with clearing. In the course of this epic novel, Proulx tells the stories of Rene's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as the descendants of his friends and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions--war, pestilence, Indian attacks, the revenge of rivals. 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. This is Proulx's most ambitious novel ever, and her master work"--… (more)
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» See also 182 mentions

English (79)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
I ran hot and cold on this book. Some sections and characters were engaging and had interesting stories; others did not. If you are interested the actual environmental history underlying much of this novel, I recommend [b:American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation|12988518|American Canopy Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation|Eric Rutkow|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1441952093l/12988518._SY75_.jpg|18148320]. You'll get all the underlying themes along with more-complete facts (and a bit more anger and despair, in all likelihood).
[Audiobook note: The narrator, Robert Petkoff, does a masterful job handling the many non-English terms. He also is one of the best male narrators for providing good-sounding female character voices.] ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
Very detailed, very educational, very enlightening. Annie is a very talented author.
Very hard to follow, very disappointing to get to know a character just barely and then never hear about them again. Very frustrating. ( )
  uss.scissorfish | Jan 4, 2024 |
This was recently made into a TV series and when i noticed it i remembered that it had been sitting in "The Pile" for quite some time an thought this would be a good time to give it a read and then, afterwards, think about watching the TV show if i feel it would bring anything to the story.

This was my third Annie Proulx book.   My first was Accordion Crimes, which i read years ago -- having found the paperback loitering in a charity shop -- and thoroughly enjoyed and is definitely on my bucket list to read again one day when the Kindle version goes on sale.   I've also read The Shipping News, which was also quite the experience: so i was quite looking forward to Barkskins.

First comments on this has to be its size.   If you're not in for a very, very long book -- its over 10,000 Kindle location points --- then just stay away.   But, if you're up to the challenge, it's a very, very rewarding book.

It's very much the usual Annie Proulx style, giving us a deep and long trip through North America's history telling the stories of people at the bottom of the pile rather than those at the top like the history books always do.   It's also a deep and long trip through the history of forest devastation the world over, and that's what this book is really about: how Europeans, having destroyed all the great European forests then discovered the New World and its seemingly infinite forests of never ending trees, set about destroying those -- and also the people who had lived in harmony with those forests for thousands of years -- with extreme predjudice.   Along the way it also touches on New Zealand, as well as the great tropical forests, as the corporations who, having wrought the destruction and decimation of North America's great forests, then realised that there was plenty of far more exotic and expensive woods to be had -- not to mention all that farm land once the trees were cleared -- by destroying the rest of the world's forests.

It also touches on the folly of managed forests and sustainable forestry and how we fool ourselves into thinking that these are anything even approaching a real, natural forest.   The delusions of Homo sapiens convincing themselves that they know better than Nature as to how Nature should be.   We're currently in a global pandemic thanks, completely, to Homo sapiens' interference in the Natural order.   But we won't learn and we certainly won't stop until we've destroyed it all and ourselves with it.   Only at the end will we finally understand that corporate profits cannot ever sustain life.

Yes, after all is written and read, this is a book that screams at humanity to get its shit together before its too late, and maybe there's also a suggestion that it's already too late.   Homo sapiens, by destroying the very life blood of Earth, the forests, has inevitably destroyed any chance of Homo sapiens' survival upon Earth.   As the book makes abundantly clear, we can never put back and recreate what we destroyed, it will take thousands of years for Earth's great forests to re-establish themselves but they'll never be as they were, and even then, that's only if Homo sapiens fucks off and leaves them alone.   So we're left with a catch 22 situation, if Homo sapiens remains on the planet in the numbers that we are, then the great forests can never begin to re-establish themselves, if they don't re-establish themselves then there's no future on this planet for Homo sapiens.   Either way, Homo sapiens is doomed and the forests will eventually re-establish themselves -- Nature will always win at the end of time.

All in all, a fantastic book, and a must read for all those who still think its somehow possible to save the environment for Homo sapiens to survive.

Before i go though, i did start this by mentioning the TV series and reading this first to see if i'll be wanting to watch that.   The answer is a firm NO.   I am more than content with the image that this book has left in my mind and i do not wish to muddy and mess with that by watching some hack job of a TV show that cannot even begin to approach the depths this books goes into.

So yeah, don't watch the TV show and think you know what this is about, take the long path through forests long ago destroyed and read this incredible book instead, you'll be glad you did. ( )
  5t4n5 | Aug 9, 2023 |
4/5 ( )
  jarrettbrown | Jul 4, 2023 |
Well-researched historical fiction saga of two families who arrive in North America. Two French men, Charles Duquet and René Sel, arrive in "New France" in 1693 as indentured servants to another French man and from there their paths diverge. The novel covers the saga of the two families, and their relationship to the forests of North America, for over 300 years.

At over 700 pages, I thought the book was too short. I wanted more, but I suppose that is not an awful criticism.

If you're interested in reading this book, I'd recommend that you read some of the other more detailed reviews, such as Will Byrne's. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1722176939 ( )
  paroof | Nov 29, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
Een echte dikke pil is de historische roman Schorshuiden, geschreven door de bekende schrijfster Annie Proulx. Een werkelijk prachtig geconstrueerde roman over de kolonisatie van Amerika en over de houtbouw. Beide niet echt onderwerpen die mijn hart meteen doen zingen, maar wat heeft Annie Proulx er boeiend over geschreven! Een rakend en boeiend verhaal van generaties schorshuiden dat maar liefst 320 jaar beslaat (1693 – 2013)…lees verder >
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Proulx, Annieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kyriazēs, GiōrgosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Milla Soler, CarlosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petkoff, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stumpf, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walz, MelanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willemse, ReginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together. - George Santayana.
In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence. Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spiriti in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. - Lynn White, Jr.
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In twilight they passed bloody Tadoussac, Kebec and Trois-Rivieres and near dawn moored at a remote riverbank settlement.
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"Barkskins opens in New France in the late 18th century as Rene Sel, an illiterate woodsman makes his way from Northern France to the homeland to seek a living. Bound to a "seigneur" for three years in exchange for land, he suffers extraordinary hardship and violence, always in awe of the forest he is charged with clearing. In the course of this epic novel, Proulx tells the stories of Rene's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as the descendants of his friends and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions--war, pestilence, Indian attacks, the revenge of rivals. 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. This is Proulx's most ambitious novel ever, and her master work"--

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