A Novel

Book - 2016
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"Bark Skins open in New France in the late 18th century as Rene Sel, an illiterate woodsman makes his way from Northern France to the homeland to seek a living. Bound to a "seigneur" for three years in exchange for land, he suffers extraordinary hardship and violence, always in awe of the forest he is charged with clearing. In the course of this epic novel, Proulx tells the stories of Rene's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as the descendants of his friends and foes, as they travel back to Europe, to China, to New England, always in quest of a livelihood or fleeing stunningly brutal conditions--war, pestilence, Indian attacks, the revenge of rivals. 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. This is Proulx's most ambitious novel ever, and her master work"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2016
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition
ISBN: 9780743288781
Characteristics: xii, 717 pages : genealogical tables ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Bark skins
Call Number: PROULX, A


From Library Staff

Nicr Nov 21, 2016

The epic history of humanity's devastating assault on the natural world--exhaustively researched, amazing in its breadth, moving in both its catalog of destruction and its fragile wisp of hope.

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Aug 30, 2018

This "epic" saga spans three centuries, following the families of two poor young men from France who travel to Quebec as indentured labour. The descendants of both men are involved in the lumber industry. One man marries an indigenous woman whose family live difficult lives as indigenous people. The author is patronizing to them either through stereotypes or the broken English she uses in dialogue. One man and his family can be characterized by their greed and wealth. The author speaks about events as if the world in 1693 is the same as in 1993 in terms of her sensibility. While the message about climate change is welcome, it is a message from some years ago, lacking the urgency of to-day. Overall, very disappointing.

Apr 23, 2018

This is a big literary meal, as it spans a time period of about 300 years. The stories of two lines of descendants stemming from two French settlers. One line engages in industrial logging, with its associated ups and downs. The other line intermarries with natives of Canada, and experiences the mistreatment by the European settlers that some might be familiar with. I listened to the audio version of this, and it would have been very helpful to have a dramatis personae to keep everyone straight. However, the story is engaging enough that I kept with it. The ecological message that breaks through at the very end is particularly satisfying.

Apr 01, 2018

This epic tale of the colonization of Eastern Canada and New England and the ecological
destruction of North America and other countries follows the descendants of two French
emigres, Rene Sel and Duques. I forgot what a master storyteller Annie Proulx is--not having read any of her work since Shipping News. Greed, racism, wealth inequality and eventual depletion of the forestry resources lead to the depressing conclusion. This novel is a disturbingly, wonderful read.

Dec 16, 2017

I thought this was an excellent book. It traces the family trees of 2 french settlers to New France. One family struggles with labor related jobs while the other prospers. I read the large print edition and it was almost 900 pages. It did take a while to finish. I would recommend this book.

Nov 13, 2017

I started reading this on my Kindle. I had no idea that it was a 700 page book. When the loan expired, I checked out the book. Trying to get through this book all at once would be horrible. I found that it is divided into 10 sections. Most are good stand alone stories. Read them more or less in order, skip what you are not enjoying. Reading books should not be a miserable experience.

Sep 06, 2017

I was swept up in this book... until about page 250. That's when I began to weary of characters flitting across the pages of this book like so many birds, of the heavy-handed approach to the important messages, and to the lack of human touch or empathy towards characters and their conditions. I admire Annie Proulx immensely and am glad her tour-de-fource is so enthusiastically embraced. I wonder how much enthusiasm this book would inspire if she was not so aged. For me, too much (about 400 pages worth) and too little (character development and continuity).

nrobocop_nwpl Apr 15, 2017

Overall I felt more impressed by this book than ~swept up~ by it. It was a long read and it was hard to get particularly attached to any of the characters. However, it is one of those books that lingers. By providing such a sweeping perspective its emotional gut-punch isn't in the individual lives of the characters, it is in the life of the forest and it does an amazing job of unpacking the problems of ideology in sustaining a living world. Its treatment of First Nations, particularly the Mi'kmaq peoples, is profoundly affecting. It is one of those rare books that affects your thinking (even if you're already sympathetic to its cause) not because it moralizes, but because it traces the changes in the land and the evolution of attitudes and ideologies over what very quickly starts to feel like a remarkably short period of time.

Feb 26, 2017

At times, I felt I was plodding through this very thorough story of a First Nations family and a French family who came to North America. Through marriage their lives intertwined Through the story Proulx’s love for nature and Canada shine through. The novel deserves the accolades it has received, if for no other reason the detail about the lumber industry and the treatment of native peoples. Beginning in the 1600’s the multigenerational story ends in 2013. I love a big thick novel, and although this book held my interest, I didn’t find it as compelling as Michener’s Hawaii, perhaps because Proux is so adept at putting so much detail into a story.

Feb 19, 2017

Here we go, another librarian review for a 700+ page door stop. But seriously this book is engrossing. Spanning several decades and exploring multiple genealogies this page-turning behemoth will keep you gripped (or your money back). The long format provides a telescopic view of the history of the logging industry in North America as well as the gradual shift from frontier mythologizing to ecological thinking. This is the great achievement of this book and you have to work to get the pay off. And if you are still put off by the sheer size it is divided into smaller books which can be read alone and then put down whilst you read your next bodice-ripping potboiler.

Jan 30, 2017

It is certainly a book with a lot of detail and it follows two families through several generations. If you enjoy family sagas and historical novels, you might like this one. However, I found it tiresome to read. It may be because I had a limited time to read it, I had to finish by January 16th for Bookclub, but I cannot say that the book kept my attention. I found myself looking for reasons to put it aside.

Ms. Proulx uses the book to preach about the destruction of forests not only in North America but also in New Zealand and some in South America. Ultimately, the caucasian framily, the Duke's destroy themselves as they did the forests. The logging company that amassed huge fortunes disappears and the last generations of the Duke family destroy each other.

The Sel family who marry and mix with indians, mainly the mi'kmaq live on, not wealthy, they struggle but they live on. They work as loggers to live and provide for family, often die horrible deaths but often return to their ancestral homes. They complain of the destruction of forests.

I struggled to finish this book and I cannot say I enjoyed it, but it is certainly thought provoking. I am looking forward to the Bookclub discussion.

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