Book two of the Poldark series continues the story of Ross Poldark: war veteran, county gentleman, mine owner, and all around moody main character. The year is now 1788, five years have passed since Ross Poldark came home from war in America to find his inheritance in ruins and his unofficial fiancee engaged to another man.
The street urchin Demelza has blossomed under his roof into a lovely young woman who knows her own mind. So much so in fact that almost before he knew what had happened to him, Ross fell in love and married her. To the author Winston Graham’s enormous credit, Demelza is a very strong capable character. For a story written in 1945 and taking place in the late 1700s, the women in the novel are admirably intelligent, unique and have strong individual voices. I like that. Many modern writers struggle with this. It seems that the answer is to write them as if they are individual people complete with their own strengths and weaknesses, who’d’ve thought!
The story continues as married life for Ross and Demelza Poldark poses its own set of challenges to face. The continued tooth and nail struggle for existence in dwindling economic circumstances provide a real threat of poverty for much of the countryside and especially for Ross since he’s managed to really tick off the powerful banker family the Warleggans. The Warleggans are tied up with Ross’ cousin Francis (now married to Elizabeth, Ross’ ex-love) and actively scheme to ruin Ross.
Ross doesn’t make things too easy for himself, skirting the law when it suits him, flaunting convention, and all the while Demelza is trying to learn how to act in genteel society, and to grow in her own self-estimation as Ross’ wife. To make matters harder, seeing Elizabeth is still a thorn in Ross’ side, and Francis knowing this has become a reckless gambler, as well as unhappy and bitter. It’s all a fine mess worthy of untangling, and continues to be an enjoyable read.
‘Demelza’, like ‘Ross Poldark’ continues to be a powerful story that curiously carries a lot of emotional impact for the tiny niche in history the setting occupies. Running through everything is not only the minutia of everyday life, but the absurdity of human nature and its goodness as well. Village life is excellent for that kind of observation.
At the end of the day for me, the message has been really strong that throughout time the human struggle has been the same in love, acceptance, day to day living, hurt, jealousy, and all its ilk; and that humor, loyalty and love are the virtues that make a life well lived.
I said ‘continues’ approximately four hundred times, excuse me.