(K. Brent Tomer),
Barkskins. By Annie Proulx. Simon & Schuster; 717 pages; $32. Fourth Estate; £18.99.
ANNIE PROULX’S new work is a tribute to the world’s boreal forests, an intricately detailed narrative of geography, history and humanity that is both exhilarating and mesmerising. “Barkskins” spans 320 years and swoops from North America to France, the Netherlands, China and New Zealand, interweaving two families and their descendants. But readers must work for their reward; this is not a novel to peck at or flick through, but one to read slowly and to savour as a long and fulfilling feast.
The book took Ms Proulx five years to write, but it was born some 30 years ago when the now 80-year-old Pulitzer prizewinning author saw a Michigan roadsign that proclaimed the surrounding bare scrub landscape to have once been the finest white pine forest in the world. The result, based on years of research, is a brutal portrayal of three centuries of man’s desire to make money from the forest, a resource mistakenly perceived as having no beginning or end and which “twists around as a snake swallows its own…Continue reading