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Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Barkskins (2016)

by Annie Proulx

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9526514,134 (3.79)1 / 167
"Bark Skins open 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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English (62)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Long family saga about a French-Canadian logging family. ( )
  Smoscoso | Sep 12, 2019 |
I've loved Annie Proulx's writing since I read The Shipping News when it came out in the 90's, so what I'm about to say comes from a heavy heart: I did not like Barkskins. It's not that I don't recognize it as more of her admirably great writing, nor can I even comprehend the magnitude of the task she undertook to create a story that spanned over 300 years, two families, and (I lost count) maybe a hundred distinct characters. Wow. I mean... just: wow.

But sadly, none of that made me like the book. I get the theme. Trees=good. Tree cutting down=bad. I'm 100% on board with that. And the other theme? White men did well in the booming years of the new country while natives did not. I think that was the other theme, anyway. Yes, I completely agree. Atrocities abounded amongst the natives and white men were the culprits. Again, 100% onboard. But what was the point?

Spanning all of those centuries, bouncing back and forth between the two bloodlines, every chapter (practically) focusing on different characters... I barely got interested in one set before having to move onto another. And nothing really tied the whole thing together, ever. Except for the trees.

Did I miss something? I felt to me like a collection of short stories all linked by a couple threads, some stories longer than others, for sure, but that's about it. The rise and fall of one character rarely had anything to do with anybody else in the novel.

Again, massive effort and what a phenomenal amount of work it must have been. For that alone (and the fact that her writing is sublime) I'll give it a positive rating. But sadly, for me at least, it wasn't worth the effort to read. If I could go back and give myself some advice, it would be to skip this one. ( )
  invisiblelizard | Jun 21, 2019 |
What an extraordinary book. It encompasses the history of the major North American forests from the 17th century to the present day, and combines this with two loosely connected family stories. This ought to be too complex and ambitious to work, but for me it got more compulsive the more I read.

At the start of the book we meet two poor Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, who are contracted to work for a settler from a French aristocratic family in a forest in New France. Duquet runs away while Sel remains loyal, and is persuaded to marry a Mi'kmaw Indian woman who has been contracted as a cook. Duquet is an ambitious wheeler dealer who starts a business empire which concentrates on logging, while Sel's family lead a marginal existence with the vestiges of the Mi'kmaw. Both families are followed all the way to the present day, and Proulx exposes the way in which the forestry industry destroyed most of America's primeval forests and most of the Indian tribes' homelands and sources of food. The book is full of memorable characters (Lavinia, the heiress to the Duquet empire in particular), but as in Proulx's earlier novel Accordion Crimes, most of their lives come to premature ends.

For such a long book, this is surprisingly enjoyable, in fact it is among the best new American novels I have read in the last few years. ( )
  bodachliath | Jun 18, 2019 |
I just can't get into this one.
  yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
Trees are one of the characters in this history of logging in the US and Canada. ( )
  rolnickj | Dec 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (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 >
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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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