Barkskins 1

Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017

by Annie Proulx

Paperback Publication Date: 23/05/2016

4/5 Rating 1 Reviews

Longlisted for the 2017 Women's Prize for Fiction

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

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 – their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions; the revenge of rivals; accidents; pestilence; Indian attacks; and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.

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.

Contemporary fiction
Publication Date:
HarperCollins Publishers
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.

Annie Proulx published her first novel Postcards in 1991 at the age of 56. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News, the acclaimed novels Accordion Crimes and That Old Ace in the Hole, and the bestselling short story collection, Close Range.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

4 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • Epic in scale and imagination

    by on

    Barkskins is a triumph of imagination and well worth the portion of lifetime you’ll spend reading it.

    Two men in the pristine North American wilderness trust their fate to the forest and each generation to follow them are bound to the endless destruction of this world. Proulx grapples with big themes of history, settlement, environment, entitlement and impermanence while remaining delicate and entertaining in her writing.

    With every chapter, Barkskins grows in scale and wonder. Lives of opulence and travel are juxtaposed with violence and poverty. I particularly loved reading French, Native American and English dialects melding together in unique and wonderful dialogues and the fantastical ways in which the author kills generation after generation of characters.

    The ending is a well-expected hope-glimmer/stern warning on conservation and climate which is a little lacklustre but wholly forgivable as the journey to get there offers so so much.