After being introduced to this book series by Winston Graham through the recent TV adaptation and becoming captivated by the first book Ross Poldark I read the next one right away – Demelza. While the standard is still very high and the narrative is just as flowing, this part is less elevating and has more of a sombre feel throughout. It still holds the fascination of very realistic characters that we’ve grown to care about and we hope to see do well.
*I will be discussing the plot now, so anyone not wanting to read spoilers, simply skip to the final paragraph in bold*
The book opens with Demelza giving birth to their first child, their daughter Julia, which brings Ross and her much happiness. Over the course of the book Ross tries to raise his mine’s profit by founding a smelting company that has no ties to the others, especially the ones under Warleggan control, and can thus bid for the ore independently and in time produce fairer prices for the mines. A new doctor comes to the district, Dwight Enys, who soon strikes up a friendship with Ross. Demelza rekindles the old attraction between Verity and Captain Blamey, which all Verity’s family was opposed to. All the while Francis and Elizabeth’s family suffers for Francis’ gambling losses, while he is encouraged to play by his friend George Warleggan. So a lot of potential for conflict – and there is.
As said before, this chapter in the saga is less elevating, especially because of the tragic ending. But the characters have become so dear, so you try and follow through. They are very close to reality. Sometimes people do something and then regret it very soon after. People know better, but they still do something wrong. That is 100% taken from everyday life.
Demelza feels Verity should know marital happiness like her and seeing she is unhappy just being there for the family with no life of her own, she decides to meet Captain Blamey, Verity’s lover from years ago. Her naive curiosity takes her into an awkward situation. Especially she has no eye for the consequences – which no one could have really foreseen. She succeeds and in bringing the two together, she is causing a big rift between the Nampara Poldarks and the Trenwith Poldarks, which in the end through a long chain of unfortunate circumstances leads to her own daughter’s death. She only meant for the best, took an unusual path and that backfired in the worst possible way.
Already now there is a lot of looking back to better times. Ross and Demelza had a short period of bliss, just the two of them, but life has carried them further now. They keep referring back to those times as in the past, which is very sad to read sometimes. Julia’s heartbreaking death at the end just underlines that again. There is no way back. What has happened has happened and will always stand there in their past reflecting on the present. The way Julia’s death is broken to the audience is very sudden and shocking and creates a real feeling of abrupt loss.
The book is fiction, but does not depict a perfect world. Bad things happen to good people and people with selfish intentions progress in the world. There are perfect marriages by chance, like Ross and Demelza’s, and dearly wished marriages from one side turn out to be mismatched and misjudged, like Mark and Keren’s or even Elizabeth and Francis’. It’s the unpredictability of what may happen and all those unforeseen consequences of seemingly trifling actions that can turn whole lives upside down. And precisely because you don’t know what’s going to happen, you want to read on and know more.
Despite the darker and grittier mood in Demelza, this book continues the Poldark saga and again we feel for the characters and want to know how their lives unfold. They are realictic people caught in many testing and difficult situations and every one reacts and copes differently. Even when there are darker spells in life, people always find hope and pick up their lives and shape them into something new. While in Demelza the straining times take up more of the book, the last page anticipates a brighter future, in time. And I certainly want to read about that in the next part, Jeremy Poldark.