Addictive! This is the word to describe what happens when you start reading the first book in thisseries. Winston Graham has written historical fiction at its best. Cornwall in the end of the 18th century, where people are mainly depending on the tin and copper mines.
The story starts when Ross, a young man from the higher classes, but without money, comes back after having fought in the American wars. Being rather disillusioned by his experience, he is on his way home. Already in the stage coach he gets news that his father has died. Deciding at the spur of the moment, not to go directly home, but visit his uncle to inquire more about the circumstances, he get his second chock when he learns that his first love, Elizabeth, is to marry his cousin Francis. With these devastating news he goes back to his house, Nampara, where he grew up. It is in an appalling state, and no money to take care of it. However, he is determined to take it back to how it once was. The other part of his inheritance is a couple of mines, where his father already had given up on finding anything. His prospects does not look that good.
I don’t want to reveal too much for you, who are still happy enough, to have the enjoyment of reading the books ahead of you. It is a family saga of the Poldark family, and the people surrounding them. It is a tale of family, love and betrayal, the rich and the poor, the mining business which seemed to have thrived during the time, but now in decline, the miners and their miserable life, but with highlights at times, the people making money on banks and businesses, not always fair, the unrest in France, the smugglers of the Cornwall coast and much more. They just go about their daily life, but Winston Graham has managed to make it into a very exciting and eventful time.
How did he manage? Mainly, I would say, in the narrative. It is written in a cool, almost neutral kind of way, but he still manages to put sparkles on the pages. He tells the story of a number of different kinds of people in a very inspiring way. He lets their life be shadowed by real life events, but otherwise you have the feeling that this is the world as it exists. It is highlighted in all the things that is happening with the mines, the village, the workers, the family situations and is woven into a beautiful ‘piece of cloth’.
The other remarkable thing is the characters he has created. They overtake everything, especially the main characters Ross and Demelza. Even when the story is told with other actors, their characters are lingering over the story. Apart from that, you have the people working in Nampara, Ross’ cousin Francis and his wife Elizabeth, George Warleggan, a newly rich banker who is also in love with Elizabeth, other countryside gentry, the miners and people in the village. After four books they are all you friends. Hmm, maybe not all of them!
Just a few notes on the main characters, which hopefully will not destroy it for anyone else.
Ross is a fantastic romantic character. Strong willed, making friends over the class borders, a natural, thinking of other people (most of the time). He is sometimes a little bit too emotional and lets his anger take the better of him, which puts him in difficult situations. There are times when you don’t like him so much, but he always manage to justify the means in the end.
|Ross and Demelza (from BBC series)|
Demelza is another fantastic character moulded out of a miner’s daughter and coming to Nampara by coincidence. She is the one who makes the longest ‘journey’ over the class borders, and has enough power to overcome the obstacles. Slowly, slowly, she works herself into the confidence of people and they very soon realise, that when she is not there, they miss her.
Francis, is a good natured boy, too kind, too easy to lure into a wrong path. Getting disappointed in his marriage rather early, he starts playing and loosing his money. He always have a minority complex towards Ross.
|Ross and Elizabeth (from BBC series)|
Elizabeth is beautiful and sensitive. Like a beautiful flower who is there to get admiring looks from men, but will bend with the first wind. It is difficult to understand what the men see in her, but maybe this was the ideal at the time. She is the one most difficult to get a grasp of.
Winston Graham wrote many books, and being so impressed by the way he tells a story, I think it is a must to try some of the rest. The first four books in the Poldark series were written in the fifties. It was only twenty years later, that he continued with the other eight(!) books. I only bought the first four, but I have to admit that I just have to read the others as well. Cannot leave this story without knowing how it will be developed. However, since I tend to get so captivated by the books, and have a lot of other books to read, I will not yet buy the rest! I hope you realise how disciplined I am in this venture?
I have some favourite books when it comes to strong stories and characters. Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Scarlett and Rhett in Gone With the Wind, and Claire and Jamie in the Outlander series. To this list I can now add Ross and Demelza.
He also wrote Marnie which was a successful Hitchcock film with Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren.