Monday, January 2, 2017
By Annie Proulx
Scribner, 2016. 717 pgs. Historical Fiction
Barksins is the very definition of an epic novel. It picks up the tales of two destitute Frenchmen late in the seventeenth century who travel to New France to clear forest land. Contracted to three years of labor in exchange for their own land, René Sel and Charles Duquet struggle to survive in this strange land filled with endless forests.
The plot follows the lives of these two wood-cutters and then the stories of their children, grand-children, and on through generations to the present day. Their lines merge with the indigenous Americans creating complicated relationships with the land, the trees, and the developing modern world. These people will travel around the world to Europe, China, New Zealand, and across the United States. Their journeys are often brutal and fierce, much like the wilderness in which they lived.
Annie Proulx has never been my favorite writer, but I absolutely loved this book. I loved the history and the characters and the lavishly described settings. As the generations proceed, one after another, powerful images take shape of the limits of our natural resources and how, bit by bit, we have cut down a world we may never be able to restore. A simply amazing work by an already accomplished and respected author.