Friday 6 May 2022

A Golden Oldie: Ross Poldark by Winston Graham


Ross Poldark - first edition cover
(Ward Lock & co)


"Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham's hugely popular Poldark series. Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and his family. But the joyful homecoming he has anticipated turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin. But his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl and take her home – an act which alters the whole course of his life ."

Despite having a To Be Read list as long as my arm (and two of my own novels to write) I turned to a bit of familiar comfort reading for, well, a bit of comfort when winter suddenly returned and the days were wet and the nights were cold. Nothing better than curling up in a nice warm bed with a good book to read. Or I should say, re-read. 

I read the Poldark series way back when I worked as a library assistant during the 1970s. The fifth in the series The Black Moon, was published in 1973 and I suspect that's when I started reading these excellent books - or it might have been when the original TV series, starring Robin Ellis, aired on BBC TV in 1975. (As an aside, my Jan Christopher cosy murder mystery series is set in and around a library during the 1970s - expect to see the Poldark  books mentioned in a future 'episode'.)

Wikipedia states: "The series comprises 12 novels: the first seven are set in the 18th century, concluding in Christmas 1799; the remaining five are concerned with the early years of the 19th century and the lives of the descendants of the previous novels' main characters. Graham wrote the first four Poldark books during the 1940s and 1950s. Following a long hiatus, he decided to resume the series and published The Black Moon in 1973."

The newer TV series, starring Aiden Turner, started in 2015. Whether the original or the newer series is the better of the two is personal opinion. I preferred the recent version, partly because the scenery and locations are made more use of because of improved camera technology.

What I think is not in doubt is the enduring enjoyment of the books. They are, almost, 'the everyday story of Cornish folk' set in the late 1700s/early 1800s. They are not, I must be honest, action adventure nor do they have in-depth plots. The stories are about the characters, their views, their feelings, their lives, loves, mistakes and achievements. They are about the arrogance of the gentry and the struggle to survive by the poor.

Nor is the 2015 TV series that faithful to the books - the books are slower, things happen in a more 'real time' frame, whereas the TV series skipped about a bit, and did not introduce as many sub-characters. (Why did the TV series change Nicholas Warleggan?) In the books, at least in this first novel, George Warleggan is nowhere near as prominent, plus the love that gradually develops between Ross and Demelza is a lot slower to blossom within the written pages.

Being truthful? There were rather a lot of POV and sudden scene changes - but - this is how books were written in the UK back then! I spotted a couple of minor historical errors, but nothing serious.

A fictional series portraying just how life - for the rich and the poor - probably was in Cornwall, or anywhere in England for that matter. Poldark remains a darn good read. So on to book two: Demelza.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Helen Hollick
 e-version reviewed

1 comment:

  1. I have the whole series - I've read them over and over. Love them.
    I had to do this anonymously as it didn't like my website, lol.


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