Book Review: Poldark

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Image from PBS

I am a big fan of British mysteries, comedies and dramas so it is no surprise that I am a fan of Masterpiece Theater.  I recorded Poldark when it appeared on PBS and enjoyed the series, but did find it a bit on the slow side.  I heard that there was also another “mini-series” done in the 1970s.  I knew that both were based on a book so I looked it up and saw that the first book was published in 1945 (post-world war II) and the last book was published in 2002.  I was really curious in reading Ross Poldark and suggested it for my online reading group.  It won the poll so I was motivated in reading it.

Poldark

An older edition

ROSS POLDARK (The Poldark Saga: #1) Written by Winston Graham

1945 (reissued: 2015); 393 Pages (Pan/Sourcebook Landmark)

Genre: historical fiction, romance, saga, series

RATING: ★★★★1/2

Cornwall, 1783-1787

Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and family, only to find his father has died, his estate is derelict, and the girl he loved is engaged to another. But then he rescues a half-starved urchin girl and takes her home; an act which, it turns out, will alter his life.” (From Publisher)

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2015 TV tie-in cover

I started this book thinking it would an okay family saga, but was really surprised on how much I loved this book.  For me it was a bit like the first moment I read Outlander.  I could reread this book a few time like I did with Outlander.  it is because I really connected with this novel.  The character development throughout the book was so well-written.  You were given more than just a snippet of the person and their life. Throughout the book we would visit key characters and learn more about them this way. Ross is what I would call a “Bronte/Austen” hero in that he is brooding, flawed but also wants redemption.  I liked him as a character and a hero. I was always rooting for him, but also had a bit of a crush on how he wants to help others.

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1970s TV Tie-in cover

Graham is also great with the dialogue and interactions between the characters.  It is through different characters that we also get the whole of who Ross is.  His genuine affection for his cousin Verity shows his sensitive caring ways.  You see the vulnerability and yet strength when he interacts with Elizabeth.  I also liked that Graham did not turn characters in caricatures or one dimensional.  Even the “villains” and “quirky” characters have all sides.  I wanted to have constant hate-on with Elizabeth but you do see how she gets the way she does and I end up feeling pity for her.

Books defined as “sagas” can either be angsty dramas, sex and gossip or really gripping portraits. Or it is for me.  This one worked for me because it was well-researched in the historical time it took place.  You didn’t just get the sense of the time, but what was going on in those days – politics, social norms, courtships, war, etc.  Ross Poldark has a great mix of drama, action, romance and history.  It balances out perfectly so that you just really are entertained by a well-written book.  I highly recommend you just try this book as it may be better than you think it will.

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