Characters with more layers than a hero sandwich.

It’s 1783. Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall after two years of taking the king’s shilling in America’s Revolutionary War to find his father dead and his fiance engaged to his cousin Francis. His father’s mine is played out and he is broke and his heart is broken. Then at a town fair he rescues an unwashed urchin named Demelza Carne who he takes home to be his kitchen maid. She grows up, they marry, and life at Nampara, the Poldark estate, and in Cornwall, England, and Europe plays out over the next 37 years (although there is that missing 12 years when Ross’ adventures are only tantalizingly alluded to, a la Conan Doyle). There is adultery, robbery, even murder, poverty, hunger, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, smuggling, espionage, corruption in politics and government, royal intrigue, a lot about mining copper and tin, more about steam power which was just then coming into its own, a duel to the death, laugh out loud comedy (as life has), and a heartbreaking stop on the battlefield of Waterloo.

I burned through this entire series in a little over two weeks, yes, I did, I think partly because Graham’s characters are so very attractive (or not). Each has more layers than a hero sandwich, although of course he saves his best efforts for Ross and Demelza who are each their own onion. Recurring villain George Warleggan inspires dread and foreboding whenever he appears on the page, which inspires cheers whenever Graham allows George to be thwarted.

But also because Graham is a UXB-level plotter. He is adept at planting a land mine inside the narrative of book three that nobody steps on until book seven, if then. By when he’s made you care so much for the characters that you’re so worried about that mine that you tear into the next book as soon as you finish the last one. Keenly observed descriptions of Cornwall’s gorgeous landscape, too, and for those who like that sort of thing, fun use of Cornish slang. I do, as when the Poldark mines offer up “kindly” lodes, which means they’re profitable. Very much recommended.

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Dana View All →

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5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. If you haven’t already seen it, the recent BBC/PBS Masterpiece Theatre remake of Poldark is a stunningly beautiful work of cinematography and lots of fun to watch.

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