Barkskins is Annie Proulx’s fifth novel, which was released in January 2016. Epic, powerful, and engaging from page one, Barkskins follows two Frenchmen René and Duquet who are indentured to a seigneur Trépagny in New France. There they are to become barkskins, wood cutters. From these two men the reader follows their lineage and the travels they make which takes us through Canada, the United States, and as far away as New Zealand.
The recurring man against nature theme is present throughout the novel. We witness the simultaneous destruction of the Native Indians and of their land. The Native Indians’ desire to live in symbiosis with nature while the white settlers only desire to clear the trees and to force the savage surroundings into their new homes at all cost. The first half of the book clearly depicts the brutality used to clear off all that was undesired by the white settlers. As for the Native Indians they were forced to accept the ways of the white settlers or to perish like their ancestors.
The lineages of René and Duquet are perfect examples of how people go about surviving in such difficult unchartered territory. It’s survival of the fittest. Proulx uses fire as a way of wiping the slate clean because with each new generation comes more hopes and dreams to be had.
Barkskins reads as an epic novel on a grand scale. There is much to take in from detailed descriptions of lumbering practices to unforgettable characters that will suck you into the story and make you forget that the novel is 713 pages. Not to mention, Prouxl’s writing is stellar. She never misses a beat to let you know the slightest thing about a character in one seemingly insignificant sentence. It’s all in the details people. If you’re a detailed reader you’ll catch all that she wants to say about a character without spending too much time. The pacing is perfect and has the ups and downs needed to keep a large epic novel like this moving. If there are any books that are a must read this year it’s Barkskins. You won’t be disappointed. Proulx even manages to make the story come full circle and to give us a bit of a message at the end. Perfection! I was so afraid the ending was going to be flat but she finessed it beautifully, henceforth me giving Barkskins 5 stars.
My copy: Barkskins, Hardcover, 736 pages – Fourth Estate
My rating: 5 stars
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6 Replies to “Barkskins”
I’ve been seeing Barkskins around a lot, but haven’t seen too many actual reviews of it. I’m guessing people have it on their to-read lists, but have put it off because of its length. I’m glad to read such a positive review of it. Thanks for taking the time to read and review it!
Thanks for checking out my review Naomi. I hope you do decide to take the time and read Brakskins. I learned a lot and went on quite the ride. Proulx is a true storyteller. Brilliant!
That is a vert convincing review. I was in two minds about the book because I thought the backdrop of the lumber industry would be a little dry for my taste because it is a huge book. Guess I am mistaken,
Yes you will learn things about the lumber industry but it is not boring nor dry at all. Quite the surprise read for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect but loved every moment of my reading experience. Proulx did a brilliant job. It’s a shame more people haven’t read it. I’m assuming because of its size.
Wow, you really got into this one, I was a little less enthusiastic as it waned in places for me, though probably if I’d had longer periods of time to finish it that may not have been the case.
It is definitely a fascinating historical story and much of it has stayed with me, I loved that she even took events all the way to NZ where they tried to save the great Kauri tree, sadly to little avail, it’s virtually extinct today, as are so many great species of tree thanks to the logging and lumber industry.
How was it received by your bookclub?
I didn’t read this one for my book club. I buddy read it with another Booktuber. Saving the trees and the environment… You have to admit she went about exploring that theme in this book brilliantly. Sadly this book seems to have been overlooked. I feel mostly because of its size.
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