Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham

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.

In recent years I’d heard voices in the Austenesque community raving about how much they loved the old Poldark television series, originally broadcast from 1975-1977. Discussions of the program became more frequent when news of the latest visual version was released. As my local public library had DVD copies of the two seasons of the old show, I decided to bring them home and give them a try.  At first I was surprised at the low production values, and the somewhat soap-ish style of acting from some of the performers, but the more I watched, the more I was pulled into the series.  The 18th-century story of Captain Ross Poldark, Demelza Carne and the myriad characters created by author Winston Graham was simply a delight. I practically binge-watched all 29 episodes, and lamented the series’ conclusion.  To know that a new version was in production was exciting, and I hoped that the material would be handled just as well, if not better than it had been in the 70’s.  As of now I’ve only viewed one episode of the new Poldark starring Aidan Turner, and while it has a much different feel this time around, I’m enjoying it.

Like many movie fans, I enjoy reading the source material for many of the films that I watch. Not long after I started watching the old Poldark, I added the Winston Graham novels to my vast TBR list.  I honestly didn’t know when I’d get around to reading these titles, and were it not for today’s book tour, it might have been years before I would have accomplished that.  So I’m grateful for this opportunity to not only review Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, but to also get around to one of the many titles waiting to be devoured on my list.

As with many novels taken to the big screen, the original text is far more rich and developed than any two-hour movie or multi-episode miniseries.  Such is the case with Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark, the first in a 12-volume collection. Within this riveting narrative, we are introduced to Graham’s Cornwall in the late 18th century. Captain Ross Poldark is returning from the war in America to find that much of what he left behind has changed. He must learn to adjust to these changes, as well as survive on his own as a landowner and employer. Thrust into his life is a streetwise imp named Demelza Carne, who escapes domestic abuse to become Ross’ kitchen maid. His decision to take her in will alter his life’s quality forever.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed Ross Poldark. Winston Graham’s writing was exquisite, the perfect balance of scene-setting (without too much detail), character development and diverting plot. Moments of humor are sprinkled throughout the story, popping up when they aren’t expected, somehow becoming more humorous due to their placement. Graham frequently captures the local dialects and accents within his often-phonetic writing, sometimes making the language a bit tricky to understand, but this illustrates his ability to write as people truly speak. He also includes inner dialogue, revealing the thoughts of his characters in a very unique way. The manner in which he sets his scenes is also quite delightful, as he artistically paints a picture of the environment and social atmosphere in a way that was compelling, but never crossing over into the realm of purple prose.

The character development seen in Ross Poldark was particularly interesting. Virtually all of his characters go through some sort of transformation:  From his titular character, to the kitchen maid, to secondary characters, right down to even the family dog.  Some go through physical changes, but most mature and grow in ways that are quite remarkable. There were multiple scenes that nearly brought me to tears, they were so poignant in their revelation. Several of the characters must navigate the maze that includes social convention, family tradition, old relationships, financial issues, religion, old wounds and rivalries. To see the manner in which these issues are deftly (and not so deftly) handled was fascinating.

As Ross Poldark is the first in the series, the novel does have a conclusion, but it also leaves several loose ends that will easily carry the story on to the next set of episodes.  I have the next novel, Demelza standing ready to take in, and I am thoroughly looking forward to continuing my exploration of the world that Winston Graham has created. The original television series was lovely and I enjoyed it very much, but I simply loved the novel even more, and plan to keep it in my library for many years to come.

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.

Additional Comment:  In order to make my July 20th deadline, I splurged and purchased a copy of Ross Poldark on audiobook, to use during times when I was unable to read my review copy. The performance of Englishman Oliver Hembrough was a delight, as he took on countless voices and accents to distinguish the many individuals in Winston Graham's cast of characters.  If you have the means, I highly encourage you to enjoy at least part of Ross Poldark in this format.  It greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the book.

Grand Giveaway Contest

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:

(1) DVD of Season One of Poldark (New addition to giveaway as of August 4th!)
(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 and 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!

Comment Idea (not required):

If you have a book that's been made into a movie or television program, do you prefer to watch the performance or read the book first?


July 06 - My Jane Austen Book Club (Preview)

July 07 - Booktalk & More (Excerpt)

July 08 - Reading, Writing, Working, Playing (Review)

July 09 - vvb32 Reads (Preview)

July 10 - The Paige Turner (Review)

July 10 - My Kids Led Me Back To P & P (Excerpt)

July 11 - Austenprose (Review)

July 12 Laura's Reviews (Preview)

July 13 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 13 Reflections of a Book Addict (Preview)

July 14 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 15 Confessions of a Book Addict (Review)

July 16 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 17 Paige Turner (Review)

July 18 Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Preview)

July 19 Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide (Excerpt)

July 20 - Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 20 - The Calico Critic (Review)

July 21 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)

July 21 Poof Books (Excerpt)

July 22 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 23 Austenprose (Review)

July 24 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 25 My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)

July 25 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 26 Delighted Reader (Review)

July 27 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)

July 27 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

July 27 Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 28 She Is Too Fond Of Books (Review)

July 29 English Historical Fiction Authors (Preview)

July 30 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 30 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 31 CozyNookBks (Excerpt)

Aug 01 The Calico Critic (Review)

Aug 01 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

Aug 02 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Review)

Aug 03 Romantic Historical Reviews (Review)

Aug 03 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)


Audible Version
PBS Blu-ray


  1. Great review! I really do want to read these books as I am completely in love with the show.

  2. It sounds pretty interesting. More books to my TBR list! I haven't seen the show but I hope to have the chance soon.

  3. i watch every week love the series cant wait to see season 2 i bought the dvd`s from pbs

  4. I always prefer to read the books first but I am enjoying watching Poldark

  5. I have been enjoying Poldark on PBS so it would be great to win the books and other goodies. Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. I too have been watching the new show and am enjoying it but would like to read the books as well.

  7. I love the series. Thanks for review. What an amazing giveaway.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  8. I am enjoying the Poldark series! I can't wait to read the books.

  9. Oh my what a fun giveaway! I've heard a lot about this series but haven't watched it yet or read the books. Thanks for the chance to win a copy to do so!

    For me I always prefer to read the book before seeing the film. However, I have yet to read Game of Thrones or Outlander and am completely addicted to both shows! So I plan on reading the stories and being swept away in the words as much (I hope) as I've been swept away by the acting. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. Great thoughts!! I'm really liking the new TV series on Masterpiece and hope to check out the books as well... thanks for the Audible recommendation! I've been thinking about listening to the first book with it :)

  11. I usually prefer reading the book first because I find that I don't go back and read the book after watching an adaption of it. Thanks for your tip about the audio version. I love listening to books especially with good readers. It definitely can enhance the story for me. Loving the Poldark series on PBS.

  12. I enjoyed your review, Laura. I have recently discovered audio and enjoy the added nuance that listening to a narrator can give a story. I watched a few of the older TV adaption back in the 80s. I look forward to trying the new one.

  13. I typically read the book(s) first but it's not a must. It's a toss up; they each have their advantages. I hope to be able to read this book soon, as I'm really liking the series. My mom has the 70s series on dvd and I debated watching it, but I think I'll wait til this new season is over before I do.

  14. Wow! I don't know how I've missed this series, in books or on tv! It sounds great, and your review has me wanting to stop at the library today and check out a book. :)

    I have enjoyed reading North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell many times and the book is so much 'more' than the BBC adaptation; although it is one of my favorite period pieces to watch.

  15. I am looking forward to reading the books. The ebooks are on my very long TBR. I also need to see the series. Just waiting fo its release so I can begin at episode 1 (I was camping when it came out).

    1. Glad to hear I'm not the only one that has a looong TBR list, too! By the way Deborah Ann, I did see your earlier comment, but I just published this one, since it was just a longer version of the first. I'm just now getting my computer up and running to post comments. Getting lots of great responses here. LOVED this book so much.

  16. I have only read some friends writing on facebook about Poldark and everything says that it is great! I have not had time to see the series but I should, right?
    I would prefer to read the book first :)

  17. I'm loving the series on PBS. I really can't believe I didn't know it was based on books. I usually know these things! So excited to read the books. Fabulous giveaway! Good luck to everyone, but I do hope I'm lucky enough to win. ;)

  18. Loving this series and would love to read the books as well. Thank you for hosting in the giveaway!

  19. I like this series so much more than the first one.

  20. Added to my TBR wanted list! Got to find this on my TV ;)

  21. Loving this Poldark! Have read the first two books on my Kindle but would love to have printed copies! Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. This sounds like such a great series. I'm enjoying the TV show and can't wait to read the books!

  24. Great review. The series sounds so good! ;)

  25. My library unfortunately doesn't have the old version of the series but I managed to find an inexpensive copy of the set. I agree with you -- it was suprising how dramatic and much like a soap opera it felt, at first. I stopped watching the older version because it clashes too much with the new one but will resume watching when this season ends. I'm enjoying it so much; really, it's the only show I absolutely can't bear to miss, right now. I can't wait to get hold of the books, as well.

  26. As soon as I started watching this version of the show, I knew that I was going to need to read the books! Now I want to go watch the older version of the show too...

  27. loving the series....would love to start the books!!!
    thank you for the giveaway.......

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  28. Thanks for your post and I'm looking forward to reading the books. I really am loving this series & Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. Thanks for the giveaway chance.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750. (at) aol (dot) com

  29. Loving the series and can't wait to read the books!

  30. Great review. This book series sounds great! I love to watch the TV series, which is having a final episode this Sunday!

  31. love the show watch every sunday cant wait for season 2 next year

  32. Great review and now I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how the family dog experiences a transformation!

    1. Oh no major deal there-- just what you might expect. He doesn't turn into Clifford the Big Red Dog or anything... ;)

  33. So great to hear that virtually all of the characters undergo a transformation. That always makes for good story telling! :) Great review!

  34. Thanks for the giveaway chance! I would like to read the books

  35. With each stop on the tour my excitement level increases. Great review, Laura.

  36. this show is soo good Im dying to read the books!!! Thanks for the great giveaway opportunity!!!

  37. This is the best series! The characters are so believable and I have to say Poldark is easy on the eyes. Would love to read the books too!
    donnyandshelly at yahoo dot com

  38. Hi, I think I prefer watching the series first. I love to read the book later and pick up all the details of the story and see how it really plays out in the book. Thank you for this opportunity. Maureen

  39. nice review

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  40. my daughter & I love Sunday nights watching PBS, this show is amazing and we look forward to next season-it can't come soon enough!



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