You may have seen other blogs taking part in the Poldark blog tour recently. Well today, it's stopping here for my review of the first book in the series, 'Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787'. There is also a US giveaway with some fantastic prizes. Read on for more information!
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“If Jane Austen met Charlotte Bronte and they drank too much port, the Poldark Saga would be their literary love child.” — Poldarkian.com
Captain Ross Poldark rides again in the new Sourcebooks Landmark tie-in editions of Ross Poldark and Demelza, the first two novels in the acclaimed Poldark Saga by Winston Graham, adapted into the inaugural season of the new Masterpiece Classic PBS’s series Poldark, airing June 21 – August 2 on PBS.
In celebration, July 6th through August 3rd, The Ross Poldark Blog Tour will visit thirty popular book blogs specializing in historical, romance and Austenesque fiction. Featuring spotlights, previews, excerpts and book reviews of these two acclaimed historical fiction novels, the tour will also offer readers a chance at a fabulous giveaway contest including copies of the books and a stunning Anglophile-themed prize package.
As many of you will know, I live in the UK, where the mini-series of Poldark was screened earlier this year. I recorded it, but I still haven't watched it, even now. I wanted to read the books first, so I can imagine things without being too influenced by somebody else's interpretation. I was so pleased to be given the opportunity to take part in this blog tour so I could read the first two books in the Poldark saga, which are the books covered by the first TV series.
This book starts off with Ross Poldark's father, Joshua, dying. It's clear even here that something is amiss for Ross; Joshua feels remorseful that he hasn't done more to promote Ross's marriage to Elizabeth Chynoweth, a local gentlewoman. Ross is away fighting in America and his father knows that Ross fully intends to marry as soon as he can come home. Being too unwell to visit the Chynoweth family himself he asks his elder brother Charles to intervene. Charles, who has a son of his own, Francis, is quite evasive in his answers to the dying man and straight away you can see that something fishy is going on. When Ross can finally come home, some time later, his face scarred and his ankle injured, making him for the time lame, he finds himself intruding on a family party, celebrating the engagement of Francis to Elizabeth.
'His was not an easy face to read, and no one could have told that in the past half hour he had suffered the worst knock of his life.'
He then goes on home to find his servants drunk, his house a mess, his land neglected and no planting of any sort done! Things can't get much worse for Ross. His feelings for Elizabeth were very strong and very real and while he often drinks to forget and sometimes finds an outlet in more lustful behaviour in general he is a good man. He is a hard worker and stands up for people. He isn't afraid to take on unpalatable tasks even though he feels like his soul is going through 'the winter' because his conscience is very strong.
'But all he felt was an ashen desolation, an emptiness, a contempt for himself. He had behaved badly. It was so easy to play the jilted lover, the bitter and sarcastic boor.'
This book follows Ross through his time of disappointment, and through to the beginnings of a new chapter in his life with the possibility of a brighter future ahead.
I read quite a bit of historical romance, nearly all of which are written by women. I found this story quite different from my usual reading and I'm not sure whether it makes a difference that it's written by a man or not. Firstly, this is quite an unpolished society, as opposed to many historical books which show only the highest side of society. Ross is a country squire but the society he is within is very mixed. He is quite egalitarian in his outlook, and is happy enough to mix with his servants and his tenants, who are mainly miners.
There isn't much glossing over of unpalatable truths either - there is casual mention of beatings, animal cruelty, cock-fighting, drowning unwanted babies and everybody having lice - not quite the romanticised ideal usually portrayed in historical fiction, but it is quite an eye-opener and very entertaining.
One thing I particularly enjoyed in this book was the humour, much of which relates to Ross's servants, Jud and Prudie. Jud in particular I found extremely amusing. For example, Ross is challenged to a fight in his own home by three men after technically abducting a minor, Demelza, to be his kitchen maid so that she can escape the beatings of her father. Prudie goes to get Jud to provide back up to Ross, so that he is not unfairly overpowered, and Jud has purposely proved elusive to find and is now dawdling back to the house until he hears this:
"'Tis all right. They're...fighting fair. 'Tis a proper job to watch--"
"What?" snapped Jud. "Wrastling? 'Ere, 'ave we missed it?"
He dropped his pitchfork, broke into a run, and reached the house ahead of the other two.
Now I've got on to the subject of Demelza, I have an illustration of why I'd generally rather read the book first! From pictures I couldn't help but see on the internet I had a general idea of where their relationship might be headed (and if you don't want to know, then don't read the blurb for book 2 of this series just yet!) so I was a little shocked that Demelza was so different to what I'd expected. When she is first taken in by Ross she is only 13 or so and I had expected her to be older. However, bear in mind that this book takes place over a spell of time.
I was expecting events to be more romantic than they turned out to be in this book. This isn't a bad thing by any means, all I mean is that what the book offers isn't quite what I'd expected. This is probably due to my usual diet of historical romance where the realities of life are often toned down and the romance amplified, which isn't the case with this book. In many respects it's quite prosaic, but with some lovely and often quite poignant insights into the relationships between the characters and where they are heading.
I will make mention now of the language used. As you might notice from the last quote I put in, some of the characters speak in a Cornish accent. I don't mind reading accents, though I know some people really struggle with them. I would say that the accents here are not too thick, so they are pretty easy to interpret. However, there is also a character with a speech impediment, which is far more tiresome to read, but if you read it out loud it all makes sense! I was a little surprised with some of the wording used because there are some words which I believe are US English, but the author was English. The spelling in this Sourcebooks version is US spelling, and I'm not sure whether some of the words have been changed too, or whether those words were used in the original book back in the 1940s, but it's only a few instances and not enough to distract.
I would absolutely recommend this book. If you like historical romances it's something a bit different. Bear in mind that it's the beginning of a saga, though, so it tells the first part of a story rather than concluding neatly at the end. This book sees Ross through his heartbreak and to a new beginning, which will continue in book 2 of the saga, 'Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790', which I'll be reading next!
I'd give this book a 4½ star rating.
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.
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.
Grand Giveaway Contest
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:
(1) DVD of Season 1 of Poldark
(2) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothers
(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!
As this is a blog tour that means there are other stops where you can learn more about the books, reading excerpts and reviews. The full list of stops is available on the Sourcebooks website. Remember, if you are a US resident you can comment on any or all the blogs to enter for the prize giveaway.
If you are not a US resident then I still welcome your comments, but unfortunately you are not eligible to win a prize aside from some of my appreciation :)
My thanks to Sourcebooks for the chance to review 'Ross Poldark' and to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for arranging this extensive blog tour!