Sunday, January 1, 2017

Recent reading: A plethora of Poldark ;)

The last three books I read in 2016 were from Winston Graham's Poldark series. As I've written before, I first read the Poldark books and was a big fan of the original BBC/PBS television series, back in the 1970s. I began re-reading the series when a new television series based on the books began airing on PBS a couple of years ago.

The series began in 1780s England, with Ross Poldark returning to his native Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolution. He finds his father is dead, his estate is in ruins, and his sweetheart, Elizabeth Chynoweth, thinking him dead, is now engaged to his cousin, Francis. To the horror of local society, Ross takes in an abused miner's daughter named Demelza as a kitchen maid, falls in love with her and marries her. 

As the series continues, the French Revolution casts its shadow over England. The poor are getting increasingly poorer and more desperate, and the forces of industrialization and commercialization -- represented here by the upstart Warleggan family -- are challenging the dominance of the old order. 

Jeremy Poldark & Warleggan, the third and fourth Poldark novels, formed the basis of the BBC TV series season that just recently ended on PBS in North America. As with the previous novels, the storytelling is masterful. The characters and relationships are complex and wonderfully drawn, and you learn a lot about the history of the time and how people lived.

As "Jeremy Poldark" opens, Ross is facing trial for inciting the locals to loot and riot after a ship owned by the Warleggans runs aground in a storm, and Demelza is desperately maneuvering to save him. The trial, the recent death of his daughter Julia, a lingering attraction to Elizabeth place a strain on Ross's relationship with Demelza, just as she discovers she is pregnant again (with the title character). As a bereaved parent who saw many of our support group friends and clients go through subsequent pregnancies after loss, I was impresssed with the very realistic way parental grief is portrayed in this book. Like many parents, Ross & Demelza find themselves grieving the loss of Julia and approaching the prospect of having more children in very different ways, which drives a wedge between them. Grief is not a major plot point but, as it often does, it forms a backdrop and informs other events that follow. 

 In "Warleggan," cousins Ross and Francis embark on an ill-fated partnership to revive the family mine, Wheal Grace, and free themselves of the influence of their enemy, George Warleggan. When Ross's relationship with Elizabeth deepens, a furious Demelza retaliates by encouraging the attention of a handsome Scottish officer. The relationships between men & women and how easily misunderstandings and damage can occur is a recurring theme in this book.

The Black Moon, the fifth Poldark novel, takes its title from the black moon (lunar eclipse) that takes place as George Warleggan & Elizabeth's son, Valentine, is born. Great-Aunt Agatha Poldark, nearing her 100th birthday, pronounces it to be a bad omen -- something she reiterates with great relish to George later in the book.  There is a long interlude in France, where Ross risks everything to rescue his friend, Dr. Dwight Enys, from a French prison. And we are introduced to two of Demelza's brothers, Sam, a devout Methodist, and Drake, who forms an unlikely (and socially verboten) friendship with young Geoffrey Charles Poldark, son of Francis & Elizabeth -- and with his governess, Elizabeth's cousin, Morwenna Chynoweth -- adding to the existing tensions between the Poldark & Warleggan families.  

"The Black Moon" and part of the next book in the series (which I am currently re-reading), "The Four Swans," will be the basis of the next season of Poldark, which is now filming in Britain. Air dates TBA. Needless to say, I can't wait! 

These were books #22, #23 & #24 that I read in 2016, for a final total of 24 books read, meeting my Goodreads challenge. :) 


  1. Hmmm. I'm looking for new books. Maybe I need to get into Poldark. I still remember the 70s version, of course.

    And well done on meeting your Goodreads Challenge! I haven't set my new one this year. I'm not sure whether to be ambitious or cautious!

    1. I'm doing 24 books again... I figure that's do-able, and if I read more, all the better!

    2. P.S. Robin Ellis, who played Ross Poldark in the original 1970s series, plays a dour judge, Rev. Halse, in this version!

  2. The books sounds good. I haven't seen the TV series but it's the kind of thing I'd like. Have you read Outlander? The show is very good and I've heard the books are too

    1. I haven't read Outlander at all, which seems strange, since it's got all the elements I love -- historical fiction, romance, time travel, Scotland... My sister has read the entire series several times over & loves it, and I have a lot of friends who love the TV series. Ahhh, so many books, so little time...! ;)