I’ve been consumed and riveted by the Poldark series whereby I’ve abandoned writing, posting, and my entire stack of reading just to be cocooned in Winston Graham’s masterful writing. Graham’s narrative authority is nothing short of brilliant. He creates scenes and characters with such honesty, they are at once lovable and despicable; you are torn between embracing them or calling them names. His characters are so bold in appearance, they invite you in so you are completely immersed in their story.
Graham wrote the first four novels in the mid 1940s-50s. Each book spans two years, encompassing the end of the sumptuously scenic 18th century Cornwall. In this Copper and mine obsessed community of rich and poor, old money and new, the story draws on the Poldark and Warleggan families as they battle for wealth and ownership.There is a natural eloquence about Graham’s ability to sweep conflict and social inequality into each scene, his lines are stunningly astute. They apply perfectly to the human condition, no matter the time frame. Here’s my favorite. It appears at the end:
“human beings were blind, crazy creatures, he thought, forever walking the tightrope of the present condemned to ever-changing shifts and expedients to maintain balance of existence, not knowing even as far ahead as tomorrow what the actions of today would bring”.
From the minute he introduced us to his main protagonist Ross Poldark, whose character is based on a fighter pilot Graham met during World War 2, we’re drawn to him. His flaws are striking. His steadfast yet impulsive nature is beautifully embedded in his inclination to follow his instincts rather than the law. His ability to balance social inequality and propriety i.e. his interaction with rich and poor, tenants and lawmakers, makes for a strong character. And Ross is strong. He is one who defies the odds and succeeds in spite of heartbreaking circumstances. It is Demelza however that brings beauty and light to the story. She is silent, resourceful, brave and kind. A perfect partner. She has compassion, although very little is extended towards her. I’m a little in love with Nampara – Poldark cottage – so much so, I could quite literally place myself there. And If I listen close enough, I can hear Demelza sing. It is a simple and modest Cornwall home, with fragrant lilacs, sweeping rose bushes, piles of wood ready to be chopped and fragrant vases of lavender. It is rustic, warm and welcoming, much in the spirit of Demelza who has made it a home. As this is the third in the series, I won’t ramble on too much with the back story – I promise.
This book picks up where the t.v.series(if you watched it) left off. It is worth your while to read the books of course. The focus is on the Poldarks internal conflict. Which sees a massive surge to the top due to the loss of baby Julia, betrayal and a looming trial. A distressed Demelza copes infinitely better over the loss of her daughter, as she balances that loss and battles to save a very depressed and angry Ross, distracted by Francis (Ross’s cousin – they are not on speaking terms after he betrayed Ross) and bent on vengeance. It is almost too painful if not for Demelza’s positive energy and hopefulness. While Demelza is able to grieve the loss of Julia openly and honestly, thank goodness for it, because we’re able to grieve with her. Ross swings from belligerent to loving husband and we’re not able to catch his grief, because it is brief but voluminous, layered and quiet. He cannot articulate the weight of his worry for Nampara, his heritage, the home he holds for his family. He cannot bear the thought of going to jail and leaving Demelza destitute. It is the desperation of the Poldarks circumstances that makes the book so compelling.
I feel truly fortunate when I’m in the company of such strong characters. Ones that don’t leave, but live within the pages of such an eloquently and intelligently written series.
Book – Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham
- Pan Books, This edition published in 2008
- ISBN 978-0-330-46335-5
- 344 Pages