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Barkskins

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  11,134 ratings  ·  2,038 reviews
From Annie Proulx—the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain—comes an ecological masterwork, five years in the writing: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world’s forests.

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, ar
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Kindle Edition, 737 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Scribner (first published January 5th 2016)
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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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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 se
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Zoeytron
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
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Fran
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Doug H
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Perry
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
An Awe-Inspiring, Far-Reaching Epic of the Descendants of 2 French Settlers, Charles Duquet and Rene' Sel, in 1693 in New France (in an area now in Nova Scotia) and Their Destinies Over the Next 320 Years
[review 6/29; updated 9/28/16]

I enjoyed this sweeping epic covering nearly 320 years. Although 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 compelli
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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.

(Scribner)
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
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Hugh
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
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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
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Marita
"God knows why. Take what we can get as soon as we can get it is what I say. I am not interested in fifty years hence as there is no need for concern. The forests are infinite and permanent,” said Edward."

In the late seventeenth century two men, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France as indentured servants to work for three years as woodcutters (barkskins) in exchange for land. One of them, Duquet, manages to escape and become a fur trader, whilst Sel suffers many hardships and is
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William2
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21-ce, fiction, us
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
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PattyMacDotComma
5★
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
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Phrynne
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Laura
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Leah
May 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
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...
Amanda
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
*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
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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
LeAnne
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
Lark Benobi
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
Trudie
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
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Petra
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 thi
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Snotchocheez
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
Kinga
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Claire McAlpine
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
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Michael Livingston
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
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Rouleauville
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
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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
Jeanne Mixon
I started out sort of liking it. We had a family vacation in Maine and stayed in some cabins called Micmac and had a really great time there (I highly recommend them--Micmac Farm Guesthouses and Gardner House (Machiasport, Maine) and so it was exciting hearing there were mikmaq indians because we thought the name of the cabins was so cute. And although the indian speak -- tonto speak as my son called it -- grated on my nerves, I sort of enjoyed the early how indians lived stuff.

But it was pretty
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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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“The old forests are going and once they are gone we will have to wait a thousand years or more to see their like. Though nothing will be allowed such a generous measure of time to grow.” 34 likes
“In every life there are events that reshape one's sense of existence. Afterward, all is different and the past is dimmed.” 9 likes
More quotes…