The most impressive thing about this massive novel by Annie Proulx is its size–717 pages.  And, I’m so glad I tackled this big book because it is a book I will continuously look back on and never forget. Prior to reading Barkskins, Proulx’s The Shipping News, first the book, then the film, was one of my all-time favorites. This novel has been described as “…epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic…” and it delivers on all counts.

Barkskins narrates the story of two Frenchmen with nothing to their names and is set in Canada, then known as New France. We follow the Sel and Douquet families for several generations (the families’ charts at the end of the book will explain all the connections). Proulx is a wonderful storyteller, and the story she tells carries the reader along like the great rivers described in the story. Some parts are humorous, reminiscent of Mark Twain’s Roughing It. Her “enchanting descriptions” are poetic in themselves, and her characterization skills demonstrate that she understands the human heart. Characters’ motives are always clear, whether they be admirable or dastardly.

It took me months, picking up and putting down this volume for periods of time to finish, but I am so glad I did. This book is not for everyone, but for those who are willing to be swept along by magnificent  narrative and captivated by the history of the barkskins (wood cutters) and their descendants, the undertaking is worth it!


Author: Rae Reads

This year (2019) finds me with 50 years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

10 thoughts on “BARKSKINS: A Review”

  1. I think this is a huge achievement, given how densely written her books tend to be – I haven’t read this one, Rae – and to be honest I don’t think I ever will. But I really appreciate reading your well-written review, which gave me a real insight into the book’s strengths:). Have a great weekend, my friendx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope your weekend is as good as mine promises to be. We plan a trip to the big man’s store for jeans (a belated BD gift for My Better Half) and a stop at the local Barnes and Noble. I can hardly wait to hit the bargain/clearance table!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a big book, and big books are not my thing, but it is also such a beautifully written book you can help but read it. When I heard the author speak at Inprint some months ago, she said she always starts her books with a setting. I think that is the main character of this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good for you reading this one. I have had this on my kindle for quite awhile and everytime I think I will start it, I look at how long it is and say not today. Someday I am sure. Being Canadian, the topic interests me very much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you are Canadian, you will LOVE this book. Because it is a history of the logging industry in Canada, it is a history of Canada, period. I learned so much and had no intention of doing so from the get go. It will fascinate you, and there places you can stop, rest up, and read on something else for a while.


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