Book Review: Barkskins by Annie Proulx


Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Softcover
Page Count: 736 pages
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes and 25% off

Let’s start off with a little Goodreads review:

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. 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, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.”

I slogged through this book and I don’t regret it, but I’m not sure I would recommend this book either. I honestly found the first half of this book very long, drawn out, and kind of boring. The second half, however, seemed to actually have plot and interested me. The great thing (or not so great thing depending on how you look at it) is that this book spans several generations, which is great because different character perspectives are my favorite. I also enjoy the generations because if you didn’t like a character, you knew that their story would be ending and it didn’t last for the whole book. At times I did get confused about the relations between characters, but there was a handy family tree located at the back of the book if you were to feel inclined to look at it for reference. Another great thing about the book, as cheesy as this sounds, is the message. Normally if a book has a subtle message, I probably won’t get it because I’m really bad at reading between the lines (its all just white spaces anyways). The message in “Barskins” is super blatant though, and if you miss it I might judge you, and your other friends who read a lot will too. Basically, read this book, or don’t – I can’t really tell you which decision to make, as I can’t decide how I feel about it.

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