Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Best Novel
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
From the Pulitzer Prize---winning author of The Shipping News and "Brokeback Mountain," comes the New York Times bestselling epic about the demise of the world's forests: "Barkskins is grand entertainment in the tradition of Dickens and Tolstoy...the crowning achievement of Annie Proulx's distinguished career, but also perhaps the greatest environmental novel ever written" (San Francisco Chronicle).
In the late seventeenth century two young Frenchmen, Ren Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters--barkskins. Ren suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a native woman and their descendants live trapped between two cultures. But Duquet runs away, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Annie Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years--their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand--the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
"A stunning, bracing, full-tilt ride through three hundred years of US and Canadian history...with the type of full-immersion plot that keeps you curled in your chair, reluctant to stop reading" (Elle), Barkskins showcases Proulx's inimitable genius of creating characters who are so vivid that we follow them with fierce attention. "This is Proulx at the height of her powers as an irreplaceable American voice" (Entertainment Weekly, Grade A), and Barkskins "is an awesome monument of a book" (The Washington Post)--"the masterpiece she was meant to write" (The Boston Globe). As Anthony Doerr says, "This magnificent novel possesses the dark humor of The Shipping News and the social awareness of 'Brokeback Mountain.'"
'An ambitious novel of extraordinary power that deserves to win the biggest literary prizes and confirms Proulx as a more gifted writer than many of those deemed "great American Novelists" ***** Sunday Express 'Magnificent ... might be her best book yet' Anthony Doerr 'Wonderful ... A huge and brilliant novel, which takes us back to the uncompromising splendour of the natural world, and affirms Proulx's reputation as one of the greatest and toughest prose stylists writing today' TLS 'Truly compelling ... I quickly devoured it ... Barkskins stays with you' Stylist 'An enthralling story ... Forest ecology, indigenous culture, sea voyages, Dutch culture, colonial and Maori culture, the logging industry: all these subjects and many more are revealed through the adventures of her characters' New Statesman 'Proulx's commanding epic about the annihilation of our forests is nothing less than a sylvan Moby-Dick ... Proulx's commanding, perspective-altering epic will be momentous' Booklist 'Many of the fine qualities we have come to look for and expect in Proulx's writing are in evidence in Barkskins. There is comedy, grotesquery and quirkiness mixed in with startling moments of sadness and suffering ... This is a big, ambitious novel that offers a new and cleverly indirect way of thinking about American history' Financial Times 'The pacing of her narrative, with each generation reflecting the further depredations of man against nature, its impact on the indigenous population and the twists and turns of colonial power, delivers a slowly gathering power, accented with the dread of irrevocable change' Guardian, Book of The Week 'Such is the magnetism of Proulx's narrative that there's no resisting her thundering cascade of stories' Washington Post 'Deeply rewarding' Good Housekeeping 'Will have you pondering the provenance of every piece of wood you come across' Anthony Doerr, Observer
Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honours 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. She lives in Seattle.