What a charming and emotional read. Published in 1945, set in the 1780s in Cornwall, the Poldark saga follows the intertwined lives of Cornish upper and lower classes, mostly through the eyes of a remarkable and unique hero, Ross Poldark. What captured me most about the story was how real and true to life the characters feel, which makes you care for them very quickly. And you simply need to know what happens next…
Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall after serving in the war in America. He is looking forward to marrying his sweetheart, Elizabeth, but comes home to the realisation that she is to be married to his cousin Francis. Bitter and lonely he sets out to arrange his derelict house and lands, that he has inherited from his father during his absence, and care for the hardworking poorer class in his district. One day his impulsive charity guides him to take on a young girl from the streets called Demelza as his kitchen maid, but little does he know, that this will change his life forever.
I started reading the books, as I am very fond of the recent BBC TV-series Poldark. I didn’t dare touch them so far, as I wasn’t sure whether the spark would be there. The writing and characterisation on the adapted TV show is so excellently done, the actors work so beautifully together and portray their characters with so much honesty and emotion, the costumes are lovely and look real, the scenes and sets are gorgeous and lovingly detailed and the Cornwall backdrop is simply stunning. So I wondered how to get all this from a book – well, it is possible, right here! The spark is there and drew me in from the very first page. It is real food for the imagination.
Winston Graham is a remarkable writer. It is difficult to place his novels, as they are not outright romances, but romantic elements are vital in the story. They are no ordinary heroic tales of a champion of the poor, nor are they simply a witty portrayal of society at the time. They are no simple family saga either. Graham managed to create real people, living a real life, with real problems, joys, heartaches, difficulties – and eveything else that comes with loving, living and breathing.
This layer of reality is what makes the stories and especially the characters come alive. Ross sometimes behaves irrationally, but he wouldn’t be Ross if he didn’t. There isn’t always a logical reason for emotions. The other characters are well rounded, too, and their little imperfections, contradictions and unconscious actions, bring out something that is so true to life. And that immediately captured my imagination. The character of Demelza next to Ross feels especially real. And like I am always wondering how JK Rowling managed to capture the thoughts of a teenage boy so incredibly well, I am in awe at how well Winston Graham portrays the mind of a young woman. I cried multiple times… And also laughed out loud.
This first book of the series, Ross Poldark, sets everything in motion. And more so – we are introduced to characters that soon become so familiar and dear to us, that we simply need to read on and follow their lives with laughter, tears and sympathy. In this review I simply give an introduction to the “book world” of Poldark. In my next reviews for the following books, I will go into more detail regarding the plot as well. But for anyone wanting to start the Poldark books and needing some spoiler-free encouragement – I hope I could give it with this little post.