Sample Saturday – wood-cutters, a mother, and publishers


Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Why I have it: Because it’s everywhere (and I studied a number of forestry subjects at uni).

Summary: Two penniless Frenchmen, bound to a feudal lord, become wood-cutters (barkskins) for three years in exchange for land. The story of the men and their families spans three hundred years. Epic.

“Fallen needles muted their passage, the interlaced branches absorbed their panting breaths. Here grew hugeous trees of a size not seen in the old country for hundreds of years, evergreens taller than cathedrals, cloud-piercing spruce and hemlock. The monstrous deciduous trees stood distant from each other, but overhead their leaf-choked branches merged into a false sky, dark and savage.”

“The forest had many edges, like a lace altarpiece. Its moody darkness eased in the clearings. Unknown plants and curious blossoms caught their eyes, funereal spruce and hemlock, the bright new-growth puffs at the tips of the pine branches, silvery tossing willow, the mint green of new birch – a place where even sunlight was green.”

I’m thinking: Maybe – the opening descriptions of the forest are sublime but can I do 700+ pages of it?

An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve

Why I have it: No idea.

Summary: Ariel Leve grew up in Manhattan with an eccentric and psychologically abusive mother – “a poet, an artist, a self-appointed troublemaker and attention seeker.” This is the story of how her mother shaped her.

I’m thinking: Yes.

Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

Why I have it: Because I loved The Other Typist.

Summary: New York, 1958 – booze, drugs and Greewich Village meets books with the story of three twenty-somethings working in the publishing industry.

I’m thinking: No (!). The language is so forced.

17 responses

  1. I adore most of what Annie Proulx has written during the marvelous arc of her career, short stories and novels alike– but a 700 page soap-boxed lecture about the ecology of forests, and the evils of men who’ve deforested throughout history, is not going to make it onto my TBR pile. I write this in my wood framed home, sitting on my wood chair, at my wood table, looking out my wood-framed window, with a view of my wooded property.

    Three-Martini Lunch is entertaining, with forced New Yorker Greenwich Village bohemian and Afro-American Harlem dialogue…but, it can be skipped if your TBR list is as long as mine.

    • Do you get the impression that Barkskins is a long anti-logging statement? I didn’t think it necessarily was but then again, haven’t read enough reviews to know. Her writing is beautiful.

      Was disappointed in opening chapters of Three Martini Lunch – felt so cliche. Think I’ll give it a miss at this stage.

  2. Surely the whole 700 pages won’t be such luxe prose? Surely it’s just because it’s the introductory pages? It would be hard to read a whole book of it. That snippet is divine though, and while I was already thinking to read this book – the title alone is almost enough for me, and what it refers to, woodmen? yes please – her use of ‘hugeous’ sold me.

    • The opening chapters weren’t as dense as those quotes suggest. I think if I read it I will have to tackle it over summer or at some time when I can block out solid reading time – I think if a book follows two characters and their families over THREE HUNDRED YEARS (!), I’ll need my wits about me to keep track of who’s who.

  3. I think Annie Proulx is amazing, but I must admit to finding Barkskins off-putting. She does sometimes let her extensive research take over…

    I’m surprised Three Martini Lunch is a no, it sounds fabulous! But no amount of perfect setting/plot can compensate if the language isn’t working 🙁

    • All the winning elements were there for Three Martini – NYC, story about friends, story about books – BUT the language (and particularly the bits of dialogue I read) grated terribly.

  4. Those Proulx quotes are lovely. I nearly got Barkskins a couple of weeks ago (only around $16 at Big W!) but I didn’t because of the size of it. But those quotes have changed my mind a little.
    The Three Martini Lunch sounds fun though, but maybe needs A LOT of patience to get through?

    • If I read Barkskins it will have to be as an e-book – can’t even think about propping up a 700 page book in bed!

      Three Martini was sooooo disappointing. I was so ready to love it as much as Other Typist but the language is so forced.

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