VIRTUAL TOUR: Ross Poldark – A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 by Winston Graham

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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.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Landmark, June 2015 – reissue of a title originally published in 1945.

RHR Classifications:
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 Novel of Cornwall Winston Graham Sourcebooks cover 2015Ross 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.

Poldark-200x500 v2On 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.

GIVEAWAY

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:

Ross Poldark Blog Tour Prize Package x 500(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.

39 thoughts on “VIRTUAL TOUR: Ross Poldark – A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 by Winston Graham

  1. Thank you for such a wondefrul review.I love the series & who doesn’t love Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. And thanks for being part of the Tour enabling us a chance to win.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750. (at) aol (dot) com

  2. Thank you for such a wondefrul review.I love the series & who doesn’t love Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. And thanks for being part of the Tour enabling us a chance to win.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750. (at) aol (dot) com

  3. I’ve heard really good things about the TV series, but never got around to watching any of the episodes. After reading this review, tho, I’m anxious to start reading and start watching!

  4. What a wonderful review. You explained the character perfectly, as well as the setting. I have not yet read the books, but plan to start. I loved the series and cannot wait for Season 2.

  5. Splendid review. I have enjoyed the POLDARK series! The blog tour has been fabulous. I can’t wait to read the books.

  6. Thanks for a great review. The TV first-season finale aired here last night, and my daughter and I are already missing it. I’d love to see the series continue long enough to include some of the younger characters from the novels, like Valentine and Clowance. There are now three generations of Poldark lovers in my family, and I can’t recommend the books highly enough.

    • Well, it’s certainly possible that the series will continue through all the books; as long as its popular, I imagine the BBC will keep making it. I suspect, however, that many viewers who haven’t read the books don’t realise that after around book 6, the younger characters take much more prominence and we get a kind of “Poldark, TNG”!

  7. Thanks for the review. Loved the series! Looking forward to the next season. (and now that there have been more books written) Read that the 70s series filmed all the books that were written then and towards the end had to embellish and add more stories

    • I believe that is more or less the case – I’m sure I read somewhere that Graham was writing books 3 and 4 roughly at the same time of filming!

  8. Thanks for a great review! I loved the new TV series and want to look into the books now too. Such intriguing storylines and wonderful characters! Thanks for being part of this blog tour! :)

  9. Watched the season finale last night and really looking forward to reading the first 2 books before Season 2 starts. Thank you for participating in the blog tour. I have enjoyed reading all the different blogs.

  10. I have not read any of the books but I have really enjoyed the Masterpiece series. The banter between Ross and Demelza and their teamwork is really special. The finale showed how much love Ross had for both Demelza and Julia. His character has matured so much since the beginning. I have to say, I love his horse too! Fun to hear that he has his own stunt double.
    Thank you for being a part of the tour, it was fun to visit your blog.
    cjay(at)iavalley(dot)edu

  11. I’ve seen the original version of Poldark and have been watching the current version. It was great seeing this on screen again. I need to get the books and read some more about this series.

  12. THANK YOU for mentioning how long the first book spans! Really great review. I’m excited experience just how humanlike these characters are. I’ve read, on the tour, that Ross isn’t perfect by any means, but I like to read about a hero who has flaws – as you mentioned, it makes them more real. So glad I found your blog!

    • Thanks for commenting and for the kind words. Ross has been somewhat… um… well, not whitewashed exactly for the new series, but there is rather a rougher edge to him in the original books. He’s a man ahead of his time in some ways, like the way he wants to treat his workers and tenants fairly, but he’s also a man of his time in other ways.

  13. The BBC adaptation is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve so enjoyed it and was a little sad to see it end, last weekend, but I bought a used copy of the 1970s Poldark series to tide me over. It will be interesting to compare the two. I watched just the first episode and found it fascinating that the scar was on the opposite side of Ross Poldark’s face in the older version. I’m curious how close that older series is to the books, since everyone says the newer series stays quite true to the novels.

    • The newer version does stay fairly close to the book storylines, but there are some elements that have been rather glossed over than in the original dramatizations, most noticeably the storyline concerning Mark and Keren Daniel. It’s easy, from the new version, to see her as nothing more than a man-eating, greedy harpy, but there’s a bit more to her than that, and I think that particular storyline fared better in the 1970s adaptation.

  14. Thank you for hosting this giveaway. I have enjoyed the blog hop and learning about new authors. I have just begun my exploration of English history and Poldark on PBS is great!

  15. I havent been able to watch Poldark on PBS, but its one of those that I know, when I can eventually view it, I will love! Now I think I should read the first book in preparation. Hoping to win a prize too :)

  16. This is a really well written review, and although I’ve watched a few episodes of the series, I’ve not yet gotten into it. I think I’d like to read the books as well, either before, during or after watching the series. This will be on my list to do when Autumn comes knocking and I can no longer spend the days outdoors in my garden. Thank you for making it so interesting!

  17. Thank you for a wonderful review. I am looking forward to reading the series and watching the miniseries in its entirety. The books are on my TBR and since I missed the first episode of the series, I am waiting for its rerelease.

  18. Thank you for the review. The books are on my must read list. The PBS series was just incredible, and I was so sorry to see it end. I am looking forward to next season.

  19. What a wonderful recap for season one of Poldark! It is such a wonderful series and I’m anxiously awaiting season 2! Thank you for a chance to win Poldark memorabilia!

  20. We look forward to Sunday evenings, Poldark is my favorite PBS tv show, I was so sad to see the end of the season but hopeful to next season’s adventures

  21. I have the series final recorded and intend to watch it tonight. Captain Poldark, Elizabeth, Demelza, and the entire lot is great to watch. Thank you for hosting the giveaway. Would love to read the books.

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