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Book of the Week: Barkskins

June 7, 2017

Book of the Week: Barkskins

“All must pay the debt of nature.”

Annie Proulx is best known for her award-winning fiction such as The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain. This new epic is considered by many to be her greatest work so far, and rightly so. Barkskins is a novel of huge proportions, both in size and scale. The plot spans multiple generations and continents, starting with the two young Frenchmen, Sel and Duquet, and their arrival in seventeenth-century New France (a large portion of North America colonised by the French). The two men take jobs as woodcutters, or ‘barkskins’, and Proulx follows their stories as well as the stories of their descendents, and the parts they all play in the destruction of the world’s forests.

Proulx’s characters are inimitably vivid in their very human displays of greed, vengefulness, and lust, but also hope and compassion. They command the reader’s attention, as does the compelling writing that brings them to life. For example:

“As he cut, the wildness of the world receded, the vast invisible web of filaments that connected human life to animals, trees to flesh and bones to grass shivered as each tree fell and one by one the web strands snapped.”

In writing Barkskins, Proulx has solidified her place as one of the most formidable living natural-world writers.

“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” - The Guardian

  • Barkskins cover
    Barkskins

    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.

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