by Annie Proulx
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From Annie Proulx â the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award- winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the worldâs forests. In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, RenÃ© Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a âseigneur,â for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters â barkskins. RenÃ© suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Miâkmaw 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 â their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions â 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. Proulxâs inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid â in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope â that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.
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