Rating: 4 out of 5 stars | Read: 24 June – 26 June, 2018
I knew, deep down, that I’d enjoy this book – the BBC television adaptation is one of my favourite programmes – but I didn’t expect to love it this much. If you’re unfamiliar with Poldark, it’s set towards the back end of the 18th century in Cornwall, England. It follows Ross Poldark, who has recently returned home from fighting the war in America, but his joyful homecoming turns sour. His father is dead, his estate derelict, and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin. ‘However, his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl’. He takes her home – an act that alters the whole course of his life (Pan MacMillan).
I was in a little bit of a slump when I began this book. I felt like giving up on reading. But Graham managed to grip me with his narrative. I was carried away, and eventually forgot about my mood. His writing style was one of my favourite aspects of the novel. He wrote so effortlessly. He made everything seem picturesque, but didn’t go overbroad with the flowery language. It was simple, yet beautiful. I didn’t expect to read this so fast, but I managed to fly through it in three days. It was just an easy read, and never once left you feeling unsatisfied. I doubted whether it would compare to the television show – and, in some ways, it doesn’t – but I definitely think it’s just as enjoyable. I think the show allowed me to picture the narrative better. Poldark will be a series I carry on reading, all twelve of them!
Additionally, as with the first instalment of any series, I liked how this book focused on building the world of Ross Poldark. The miners, which I know play a larger part later on in the series, was hardly mentioned. Graham focused on the resurrection of old mines, and how Ross played a fundamental part in this. It introduced us to the notion that he is unlike most of the landed gentry – he genuinely cares for the lower-classes. The narrative was more about Ross’ relationships, and how class ties into them. There’s Elizabeth, and the reason why their relationship didn’t work out (did class play a part in this?). There’s Francis, his cousin, who is of the aristocracy. And then there’s Demelza – a lower-class maid. There’s a constant blurring and crossing of class boundaries, and I was fascinated by Graham’s sensitive discussion on them (especially considering it was published in 1945).
Overall, a very enjoyable read. The host of characters, the simplistic setting, the interesting time-frame, and the integration of real working-class struggles were the aspects that made this book so brilliant. Graham was explicit when discussing the difficulties of the lower-classes, and using Ross (a member of the landed gentry) was an interesting route for this to be explored. Ross Poldark was very promising, and I highly anticipate reading the next book in the series. I know a lot of new issues arise with Ross and Demelza, with the mines, with Elizabeth, and with George Warleggan, so I’m in for a treat!
Have you read this series? or do you watch the BBC show? I’d love to discuss some thoughts with you!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X