24 Books to Christmas – Day 7

baublesIt’s a bright and early Saturday morning as I’m writing this on day 7 of 24 Books to Christmas.  Earlier, I looked out to the garden and for the first time in 3 days the sky is clear and a light blue color, no fog in sight.  The temperature has risen by ten degrees putting us at a comfortable 8 degrees Celsius. The first book that came to mind while making tea and looking out my kitchen window was Barkskins by Annie Proulx.

I must admit the only other book I had read by Annie Proulx was 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning The Shipping News.  I didn’t care for it too much because I found it to be a bit too depressing for my taste.  In spite of that first book failure by Proulx, I decided to buddy read Barkskins with Booktuber Retired Book Nerd in 2017.  We were immediately drawn into this adventurous, epic tale.  It begins in 1693 Canada and will take you all the way to 2013.  Complete with a family tree in the back of the book, my eyes were riveted on this story for about 3 weeks between January and February.  You have to love a book with a complex family tree.

I recommend this book to people who love reading stories that develop through time, adventurous stories, family sagas, historical fiction, and books with themes that we Barkskinsdon’t see coming.  Barkskins is definitely a book full of some wonderful surprises.  It’s over 600 pages but I’d definitely read it again. Very enjoyable! Barkskins would make a great book club pick too. The discussions would definitely go deep.


“In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René 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. René 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…”

I hadn’t realized but Barkskins has been turned into a series which is airing on the National Geographic channel in November 2019.  Has anybody seen it yet? If so let me know below what you think of it.

Barkskins – Annie Proulx

Publisher: 4th Estate

Pages: 713

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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barkskinsBarkskins 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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