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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  13,309 ratings  ·  2,348 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 717 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Scribner
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Mimi Denman I was so incredibly disappointed with the ending. I slogged through the whole thing thinking she would tie it together in a satisfying way but she did…moreI was so incredibly disappointed with the ending. I slogged through the whole thing thinking she would tie it together in a satisfying way but she did not. (less)

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Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,309 ratings  ·  2,348 reviews

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Will Byrnes
...the newcomers did not care to understand the strange new country beyond taking whatever turned a profit. They knew only what they knew. The forest was there for them.
Barkskins is Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx’s (the author of Brokeback Mountain and Pulitzer winner for The Shipping News) magnum opus, a wide ranging historical novel in which the central character is the land itself, more particularly the primeval forested land of (primarily) North America. Proulx plants a pod with two
Grrrrrr . . . . I am throwing in the towel on Barkskins after 120 pages. I am not enjoying it, and this is not how I want to spend the next week or so of my reading time. This bottomless pile of minutiae is just too much for my old lady brain to hack through. Cutting my losses and returning it to the library for the next soul on the waiting list. I can do that, because I am big.
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

René Sel and Charles Duquet arrive in New France as young men to work for a seigneur. In exchange for three years of labor they will be apportioned land on which to build a home and start a family. René is a diligent and focused woodcutter, despite a relentless onslaught of hardship. Duquet seeks an alternate life path, one that proffers a successful timber business. Building on the lives of both indentured
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Barkskins is a sweeping saga recounting the ecological costs of progress. Forests are destroyed and Native Americans are marginalized. Reminiscent of James Michener's "Centennial" the author reminds us that this land is only ours to borrow and pass down to succeeding generations.

Two illiterate woodsmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet arrive in "New France" in the 17th Century only to endure extraordinary hardship as indentured servants. The goal is to work for 3 years in exchange for a plot of land
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awe-Inspiring, Far-Reaching Epic of Descendants of 2 French Settlers, Charles Duquet & Rene' Sel, in 1693 New France (now in Nova Scotia) and Destinies Over Next 320 Years

I enjoyed this sweeping epic covering nearly 320 years. Though it's 736 pages, there's no one protagonist or any character that is fully developed. In fact, I believe it's difficult, if not impossible, to write an three-century epic like this that is very compelling or moving in the usual sense of literary fiction. That is to s
Doug H - On Hiatus
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: advance-copy

I Couldn’t Enjoy The Forest For The Trees

Annie Proulx is a great writer. I have tremendous respect for her and The Shipping News (winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction) is one of my favorite novels. I was therefore very honored and excited when Netgalley and Scribner granted me an ARC of Barkskins for review. I bowed down and waved my arms, just like Garth and Wayne. I’m definitely not worthy.

Proulx must have done a ton of research in order to come
Ron Charles
At more than 700 pages, covering three centuries, “Barkskins” is an awesome monument of a book, a spectacular survey of America’s forests dramatized by a cast of well-hewn characters.

Granted, your interest in forests may not extend to 700 pages, or even — to be honest — to seven, but such is the magnetism of Proulx’s narrative that there’s no resisting her thundering cascade of stories. By drilling deep into the woods that enabled this country to conquer the world, Proulx has laid out
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2017
What an extraordinary book. It encompasses the history of the major North American forests from the 17th century to the present day, and combines this with two loosely connected family stories. This ought to be too complex and ambitious to work, but for me it got more compulsive the more I read.

At the start of the book we meet two poor Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, who are contracted to work for a settler from a French aristocratic family in a forest in New France. Duquet runs away whi
Dana Kenedy (Dana and the Books)
This review can also be found on my blog, Dana and the Books.

There aren’t an abundance of Canadian history novels of this type, so I jumped on this book like Torontonian spotting a Tim Horton’s on a long road trip.

I loved the overall story of the book. Long historical epics are awesome. Long historical epic about Canada are even more awesome.

References and settings in places I have actually visited helped me picture and get more involved with the story. However, I did feel a disconnect from the
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us, 21-ce, fiction
Can dirt save the Earth?

The planet is warming not only because of fossil fuels, but also because soil, forests and wetlands are being ravaged.

Some scientists are looking into ways to put some of that carbon back into living ecosystems, changing the way we use land.

—from New York Times, 20 April 2018

Set in the seemingly infinite virgin forests of the Canadian northwest. Barkskins is a narrative of hurtling speed about the frittering away the earth’s resources. Hyper-compressed, two pages equals
Wonderful, memorable characters, some of whom live long lives and make fortunes and some who meet sudden, miserable, grisly fates, including one poor fellow who became “meat”. Sadly, he was one of the good guys, but there are many who are rascals or downright evil, and it’s satisfying when they are chewed up and spat out of the story. Or cut in half and flung overboard on one of the many horrendous sea voyages.

In 1693, two lone Frenchmen. Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive to appalling condit
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
It is a few years since I read The Shipping News but I remember that I enjoyed it so I decided to try another of Annie Proulx's books. Not sure that this was the best one to choose though!

Most reviewers seem to refer to Barkskins as an epic saga. It is certainly epic - at times it seemed endless. And it is most certainly a saga as it moves through a span of some three hundred years, changing main characters each time someone dies. This feature became a drawback as some of the many characters wer
May 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Abandoned at 30% on the grounds of trying not to die from boredom. Another case of an author doing a ton of research, bunging it all down on paper and thinking that's enough to make a novel. It isn't. Let me save you reading the whole 700+ pages - spoiler alert! White man bad - destroys land, forest and indigenous way of life! There! Bet you're as astonished at that major revelation as I am...

In fairness, other reviews suggest that eventually she widens it out to clarify that ALL men are bad...
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
This epic novel requires a big investment - it’s long, it’s complex, it covers a lot of ground. But if you’re willing to make that investment you’ll be amply rewarded. It’s a historical eco-epic about the colonisation of North America with a focus on the destruction of vast swathes of ancient American forests by European settlers and the impact this had on the indigenous people.

The story begins with Renee Sel and Charles Duquet, two Frenchmen who move to Canada in 1693 in indentured servitude.
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it
If you look closely, you may glimpse the cone of shame Ive just strapped on in order to give this magnificent author's book a meager three stars.

Annie Proulx can WRITE, seriously and brutally and with wit, insight - even delicacy at times. It is entirely unfair for me to guess or judge why she included hundreds of years, dozens of characters, and myriad settings in Barkskins. But it did not work for me.

This book reminded me of the latest written by Louise Erdrich - generations of offspring or an
Book Riot Community
This is the first novel from Annie Proulx (The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain) in fourteen years!!!! Spoiler: IT’S SO GOOD. It’s a 736-page multigenerational family saga revolving around two Frenchmen and their descendants, that takes place over the span of three hundred years. René Sel and Charles Duquet sail to “New France” to work the land for a feudal lord in order to gain land for themselves. Under harsh conditions in hostile territory, they manage to survive, and go on to raise families ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
This was a really ambitious novel that I can't help but admire Proulx for the time and dedication it took to write this. It spans approximately 300 years and has SO many characters. Thankfully there was a family tree in the back. At 700+ pages this book was both too long and too short. There were so many characters and the book moved through the generations so fast it was hard to really care about or get invested in anyone. There were some characters/families that I felt like could have been the ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
*4.5 stars! An epic work of historical fiction which spans the nearly 300 years of North American deforestation, told through the stories of two families, beginning with the arrival of the young Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, in New France in 1693. They have been engaged to work for a rich farmer, Monsieur Claude Trepagny, for a period of three years, to clear the immense forest from his land and earn the right to property of their own.

Sel works hard and doesn't complain when forced to
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this is an exceptionally difficult book to review because it is an exceptionally ambitious novel and my feelings on it swung wildly from "masterpiece" to "please make her stop talking about scaling logs".

Spanning 300 odd years and multiple family lineages it takes a very wide angle lens to the history of deforestation in North America (and also NZ). This is an odd hybrid of a book, it sometimes reads like an ecological polemic (particularly the last section) and I enjoyed it best when I
Julie Christine
Barkskins offers a complex and profound reading experience: a curl-up-and-while-away-the hours doorstop work of historical fiction; a thoroughly researched history lesson; a fierce narrative on the evils of resource extraction and environmental degradation. Spanning more than three hundred years, several continents, and multiple generations of interconnected families who make and break fortunes in the forested lands of eastern Canada, Maine, Ohio, Michigan, and New Zealand, Barkskins is essentia ...more
lark benobi
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I need to start with my complaints. 713 pages was not enough to tell this story. I ended up keeping my laptop nearby with "Google Books" an open tab, so I could search for characters' names throughout the book and could pull out their individual stories as they wove through the novel. None of these characters came fully alive for me as individuals to care about, because their time strutting across the stage of this book was too brief for me to form a vivid connection, and then I was asked to car ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2016
There is a certain irony in writing a 700-page book lamenting deforestation. And another irony is that even though I love forests with a passion (they are to me everything that’s good, beautiful, mysterious and peaceful in the world), I wish this was a trilogy, rather than a single volume.

You can tell Proulx wanted to go on (she said as much in interviews) and she should’ve been allowed to do so. Instead, after the ambitious first sections, the novel feels rushed; it’s being diminished, and it f
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Barkskins, Annie Proulx's three century-long fictionalized homage to the "New France" (i.e. Quebecois Canadian) indigenous (Mi'kmaw Indians) and transplanted (Indentured servants from France working for their freedom and a plot of land) forest denizens integral to the logging trade, is much easier to admire than laud. If I was a gifted novelist in my eighties, and had a family I wished to celebrate and immortalize, I'd want to do exactly what Ms. Proulx seemed to accomplish here: preserve my fa ...more
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for a family saga and this one is sweeping. I enjoyed every page and character. They were real. The trees, too, were characters in this novel. They lived & breathed as much as any human person. They mattered.
If there's a negative to this book, it's that the generations passed by quickly. The characters aged quickly; we missed a lot of their lives. They were so real; it would have been nice to get to know them deeper. I have to laugh as this would easily double the length of this bo
Michael Livingston
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Phew. It's probably not a great sign when your predominant emotion on finishing a book is relief, but that's where I wound up with Barkskins. It's a dazzling achievement, a biography of North America's great forests from the late 1600s through to the present day told via the unwinding family trees of two early arrivals.

After 300-400 pages I was convinced this was going to be my book of the year - the first half unfold wonderously, hitting the perfect balance between developing actual characters
Barkskins is not a book to read in a rush. It took me one month to read it and I am all the more in awe of it for having had that time to reflect on its ambitious narrative, it's complex characters and the strong statements they represent through their intentions and actions.

On the surface it is a historical novel spanning 300 years, a family saga of the descendants of two French men Charles Duquet and René Sel who are indentured to another Frenchman, Monsieur Trépagny in 'New France', a tract o
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
I received my advance copy of Barkskins through the Goodread’s Giveaway. I plodded through this book for 2 months until I finished it, never very excited to pick it up to see where the story was going.

As the novel progresses through over 300 years of history, there were small sections that were insightful, well described and memorable: the initial walk that Charles Duquet and Rene Sel take through the forest of New France; the moose hunt in the north that Achille takes with his son Kuntaw; the
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A sprawling tale covering three centuries and multiple generations of two settler families.

Two men come over to the New World from Europe to make their fortune in the limitless woodlands of North America. One founds a dynasty that is central to the exploitation of the forests, the other goes native.

Forests that appear endless are tamed and then destroyed as immigrants flock to the colonies, providing the workforce to meet an insatiable demand for lumber. What is left is often a wasteland, an ec
Brown Girl Reading
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Judging 'Barkskins' by scholarship alone, this is a five-star read. It is packed with detail about how people lived from 1693 to 2013. The story is a fictional multi-generational family history which begins with two indentured Frenchmen who immigrate to what is now Quebec, Canada. The book explains ultimately through the descendants of the Frenchmen why forests no longer exist except in patches here and there. Annie Proulx is an experienced prize-winning author, so the book does not appear to me ...more
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Also published as E. Annie Proulx
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive c

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