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From Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author ofThe Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, comes her masterpiece, ten 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 seventeenth 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.
Beyond her vast research and 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, and when they die, there are others equally visceral and magnetic who follow Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable writers of our time, andBarkskins is her Moby Dick, the story she has been writing all her life, a magnificent American novel.
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“Annie Proulx’s Barkskins is remarkable not just for its length, but for its scope and ambition. It’s a monumental achievement, one that will perhaps be remembered as her finest work. . . It’s exhilarating to read Proulx, a master storyteller; she is as adept at placing us in the dripping, cold Mi’kma’ki forests as in the stuffy Duke & Sons parlors. Despite the length, nothing seems extraneous, and not once does the reader sense the story slipping from Proulx’s grasp, resulting in the kind of immersive reading experience that only comes along every few years.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
“Part ecological fable à la Ursula K. Le Guin, part foundational saga along the lines of Brian Moore's Black Robe and, yes, James Michener's Centennial, Proulx's story builds in depth and complication without becoming unduly tangled and is always told with the most beautiful language. Another tremendous book from Proulx, sure to find and enthrall many readers.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review))
“Proulx’s signature passion and concern for nature as well as her unnerving forensic fascination with all the harm that can befall the human body charge this rigorously researched, intrepidly imagined, complexly plotted, and vigorously written multigenerational epic. [With an] extensive and compelling cast, Proulx’s commanding epic about the annihilation of our forests is nothing less than a sylvan Moby-Dick replete with ardently exacting details about tree cutting from Canada and Maine to Michigan, California, and New Zealand, with dramatic cross-cultural relationships and with the peculiar madness catalyzed by nature’s glory. Here, too, are episodes of profound suffering and loss, ambition and conviction, courage and love. With a forthcoming National Geographic Channel series expanding its reach, Proulx’s commanding, perspective-altering epic will be momentous.” (Booklist, Starred Review)
“[It’s] a tale too beautiful to miss, excellent for long afternoons spent swaying in a hammock.” (Good Housekeeping)
“Magnificent... Barkskins flies... One of the chief pleasures of Proulx’s prose is that it conveys you to so many vanished wildwoods, where you get to stand ‘tiny and amazed in the kingdom of pines.’ This is also the great sadness of Barkskins. The propulsive tension here is generated not by wondering what will happen to each character, but by knowing that the forests will be leveled one after another... If Barkskins doesn’t bear exquisite witness to our species’s insatiable appetite for consumption, nothing can.” (Anthony Doerr, Outside Magazine)
"A masterpiece." (Buzzfeed)
“Annie Proulx – the magnificent American writer who brought us ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘The Shipping News’ – scores once again with the captivating ‘Barkskins.’ . . . Her prose is often glorious, her several protagonists unforgettable. Proulx taps a vein here, helping to make ‘Barkskins” one of the most exciting books I have read in years. Proulx has pulled out all the stops." (Karen Brady, Buffalo News)
“Barkskins is an awesome monument of a book, a spectacular survey of America’s forests dramatized by a cast of well-hewn characters.Such is the magnetism of Proulx’s narrative that there’s no resisting her thundering cascade of stories. A vast woods you’ll want to get lost in. . . Barkskins is a towering new work of environmental fiction.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)
“Annie Proulx weaves [a] wealth of research, [and] brilliant imagination in [her] new novel Barkskins. Annie Proulx is a fearless writer. Like Melville's whaling and McMurtry's ranching, [Barkskins] provides a cast of colorful characters — and a means of examining their relationships to the natural world and the continent's indigenous people. [With] delicious prose . . . Barkskins has a large cast, but that's a showcase for Proulx's gift for creating lively, complex characters. Proulx's style is inimitably her own, but it echoes here with those of great influences: Dickens, Melville, Twain, Faulkner and more.” (Tampa Bay Times)
“Annie Proulx returns with a great long read for the summer . . . Worth the wait, [Barkskins is] a stunning, bracing, full-tilt ride through 300 years of U.S. and Canadian history, told through two families whose fortunes are shaped, for better and worse, by the Europeans' discovery of North America's vast forests. With Barkskins, Annie Proulx blows out the horizons. The novel has a satisfying global sweep, with the type of full-immersion plot that keeps you curled in your chair, reluctant to stop reading. Barkskins is a tour de force.” (Elle)
Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent novel is Barkskins. She lives in Seattle.
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