The year is 1783 and the wild winds sweep majestically over the Cornish cliffs of southern England. A mysterious dark man stares out to sea brooding, then whips his majestic horse into gear and gallops off into the sunset.
I jest, but it’s true too. This is the sometimes a bit corny but always beautiful impression given by the BBC/PBS show ‘Poldark’ and I love it. When I realized it was based on a series of books my interest was piqued and I finally tracked the first down at a local library.
To my immediate delight, ‘Poldark’ is exactly like the show of its name, only better. To wit:
Ross Poldark has been away in America fighting in the Revolutionary War. When he returns, nothing is as he left it. His father has passed away leaving him a broken-down estate, a failing mine (the source of the Poldark’s wealth and income) and two sloppy half-drunk servants to sort out. To make matters worse upon his immediate arrival, Ross finds that his childhood sweetheart, the woman he came home to marry, decided to make do with Ross’ cousin Francis in his absence and is engaged to be married.
That’s a really crappy homecoming. Ross however is not made of weak stuff, nor is he defeated. With the sort of rebellious attitude to the conventions of the upper class, the unusual regard he has for the poor people on his land, and the really cranky mood he takes everywhere with him, Ross Poldark is the kind of character who is unpredictable and entertaining at the same time. That’s not to say the reader ever laughs at him or his predicament though. Ross immediately is a person you want to root for, who tries his best to shape his own destiny yet is as much at its mercy as any of us are.
I really enjoy this kind of historical fiction (it’s not romance, it’s not!) especially when written in such an easy manner. That can be tricky to do when inhabiting the world of 18th century Cornwall in all its peculiarities of custom, speech and setting. So, trust me on this, it’s as smooth as any modern beach read.
This is a review of the book not the show (definitely watch the show) but after having read four of the books I have to add that Aiden Turner is probably the best casting I’ve seen in a long time, and the show so far has been particularly faithful to the storyline. SO. If you have seen Poldark, read the book. If you haven’t seen Poldark, watch it and read the book.