From Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, comes her masterpiece, 10 years in the writing - an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about taming the wilderness and destroying the forest, set over three centuries.
In the late 17th century, two illiterate woodsmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, make their way from Northern France to New France to seek a living. Bound to a feudal lord, a seigneur, for three years in exchange for land, they suffer extraordinary hardship, always in awe of the forest they are charged with clearing, sometimes brimming with dreams of its commercial potential.
Rene marries an Indian healer, and they have children, mixing the blood of two cultures. Duquet travels the globe and back, starting a logging company that will prosper for generations.
Proulx tells the stories of the children, grandchildren, and descendants of these two lineages, the Sels and the Duquets, as well as the descendants of their allies and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or a fortune or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions - accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, the revenge of rivals.
In this feat of astonishing imagination, Proulx's inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid - in their greed, lust, vengefulness, sorrow, compassion, and hope - that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable writers of our time, and Barkskins is the story she has been writing all her life: a magnificent American novel.
Praise for Annie Proulx: "One of the greatest American writers." (Independent)
"A sublimely good writer." (Daily Telegraph)
"It is hard to think of any living writer who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Dickens, with the exception of Proulx." (New Statesman)
"Proulx's prose is monumental." (Observer)
"Like a mystic seeing the transfigured universe, she recreates the beauty of ordinary things." (Independent on Sunday)
"Ms. Proulx writes with all the brutal beauty of one of her Wyoming snowstorms." (Wall Street Journal)
"Annie Proulx is a true original. She has a shrewd understanding of people, a strong feeling for landscape and a wry sense of humour rather like Mark Twain's." (Los Angeles Times)
"Artful, eloquent, wondrous." (Boston Globe)
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A real tour de force
Very detailed story, but couldn't finish
Maybe. You can tell Annie Proulx researched this novel thoroughly and you do get a strong feel for the settling of North America, from both the colonizers and the colonized. Often very gritty and thorougly detailed, but after awhile the characters become character studies--summations. A character will be there for several chapters and then die out, so I never got fully invested with any of them. I have read other epic novels and loved them, but with so much years passing, it just became a thing of 'OK, what decades are we onto next? Which generation is this now?' Most of the point of views were from the male characters and rarely from the female. I was also quite annoyed by the dialogue of the Native Americans, which seemed to fall on the stereotypical speech of no reflective verbs 'am', 'is', or 'are'. I was expecting 'Me Tonto' at any moment.
Didn't finish the book.
Not really. While his accent range was quite amazing and his pronunciation of French and Danish words and names equally so, his narrative voice wasn't particularly exciting or enganging.