4th August 2016

Barkskins-Annie Proulx

This newest novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx revolves around the deforestation of our planet. Beginning in in the 1600s, we are introduced to Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, both Frenchmen, who have come to the New World as indentured servants to make their mark on the world and are assigned to be wood-cutters. We follow the relationship these two men and their ancestors have with nature as well as the different ideological approaches on how to treat the planet, specifically the “never ending” forests of North America. The two plots draw two parallels: Rene, who marries an Indian woman, exhibiting the downfall of Native tribes and their culture in the new world as well as their future of being stuck between two cultures, and Charles who runs away to become a fur trapper and ultimately becomes a big name in the timber industry, leaving wealth, status, and a company to run for future generations.

Considered by many to be her masterpiece, Barkskins is extraordinary. Covering the span of over 300 years, this novel is incredibly well researched and extremely engaging. The way Proulx weaves the stories of these two separate families trying to adapt and survive in the New World while also bringing up the themes of climate change, nature, politics, religion, colonization, philosophy and morality is just fascinating! The characters are rich and captivating, helping to draw you further into this world she has created.  I especially loved the dichotomy of the two cultures relationship with nature: the “uncivilized” Native Americans who respect the forests and all of living entities around them as things that cannot be purchased and the “civilized” Europeans who believe it is their god- given right to conquer new lands and take down the forests. Hands down one of the best books I’ve read in years. I couldn’t put it down!

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