In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth — believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.
Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Landmark, June 2015 – reissue of a title originally published in 1945.
Time and Setting: Cornwall, England, 1783-1787
Genre: Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Caz
Ross Poldark was originally published in 1945 and is the first in what turned into a series of twelve books featuring the Poldark family and their friends, tenants and neighbours spanning a period of almost forty years, from 1783 To 1820. The final Poldark novel, Bella Poldark, was published in 2002, the year before the author’s death.
I’m old enough to remember the fabulous adaptation made by the BBC in the 1970s, which was based on the first four novels in the series (which were the only ones then written!), and was delighted at the prospect of a new adaptation of these wonderful books. Needless to say, the BBC has done a superb job once again, sticking closely to the storylines of the books so far adapted (Ross Poldark and Demelza). Naturally, such an event is bound to revitalise interest in the novels, which I read for the first time back in the 1970s and while I haven’t re-read the entire series since, I have re-read a few of them over the years, of which this first book is one.
Ross Poldark was a rather wild and reckless young man whose father sent him off to fight in America in an attempt to curb his excesses. Several years later and having risen to the rank of Captain, Ross , older, wiser, weary and battle-scarred, returns to his Cornish home of Nampara, only to find that his father is dead, and his home is in a state of complete disrepair.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Ross has more disappointments in store. Not only have his father’s business interests failed – this is a difficult time in the Cornish mining industry – but he discovers his family believed him to have died, and that the girl he loves, Elizabeth Chenoweth, has become engaged to his cousin, Francis.
Ross is bitterly disappointed, but is not the sort of man to be worn down by it. He throws himself into setting his home to rights and, most importantly, trying to find a way to support himself, as his father left him nothing other than a tumbledown home and ownership of and shares in some now defunct mines. While he continues to yearn for Elizabeth, Ross knows that she is lost to him, and finds a new purpose in the rebuilding of his home and the friendship and kindnesses offered him by his tenants. He risks almost everything he has in order to re-open one of the mines, not only to provide an income for himself but to provide work for his tenants and other locals, many of whom have been thrown out of work due to the dwindling loads at the other mines in the area. It is Ross’ concern for those of the lower classes that marks him out as different from others of his station; he is almost penniless, but he is still a Poldark, still landed gentry, and those of his own class do not care for his willingness to associate with the local miners, fishermen, farmers and poverty-stricken tenants.
On a visit to Truro, Ross prevents a young boy from being severely beaten in the street – only to discover that the boy is in fact a thirteen-year-old girl, Demelza Carne, whose brutal father and older brothers are all miners. He buys her food and then offers to return her to her home – she accepts but is clearly not thrilled at the prospect. Recognising this, Ross instead offers her work at Nampara as a kitchen maid, a proposal she accepts with far more alacrity than she had accepted Ross’ other offer.
Over the four years of the story, readers watch Ross as he works hard to rebuild his life and his fortune against what are sometimes almost insurmountable odds; we watch Demelza grow from a ragged street-urchin into a lovely, albeit somewhat gauche young woman, and come to know various members of the Poldark family and their friends and neighbours. The writing is superb, especially when it comes to the descriptions of the Cornish towns and countryside, which are incredibly evocative and place the reader right there, in the middle of it all. The characterisation is strong all round; Jud and Prudie, the slatternly pair of old retainers are frequently hilarious, Ross’s cousin, Francis is a troubled young man, never quite believing that he can trust Elizabeth now Ross is back and Elizabeth, who married for position and security is haunted by what might have been while determined never to seem to regret her choices.
The thing that has always made these books stand out from the crowd is the way in which Winston Graham’s characters just overflow with humanity in all its forms. These feel like real people experiencing real life with all its ups and downs – and Ross has plenty of those both in this book and to come in future stories. He’s a truly compelling character, which isn’t to say he’s the perfect hero, because he isn’t! His good looks and rather brooding nature may cast him somewhat in the mould of a tortured, Byronic hero, but he’s also got one hell of a temper, can be incredibly reckless, arrogant and hurtful – and yet the reader still roots for him, in spite of all his imperfections.
If you watched the recent TV series, or if you didn’t, but are a fan of well-written, gripping historical fiction with strong storylines, well-drawn characters of all sorts, intrigue, politics and romance, then I’m recommending Ross Poldark – and the entire series – very highly.
Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes
In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.
Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:
(2) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothersr
(1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
(1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
(1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
(2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee’s Garden Heirloom
(1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham
To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Winston Graham (1908-2003) is the author of forty novels. His books have been widely translated and the Poldark series has been developed into two television series, shown in 22 countries. Six of Winston Graham’s books have been filmed for the big screen, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Winston Graham is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the O.B.E.