Book Review: Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1) by Winston Graham

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark

Summary: Cornwall, 1783-1787. Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and family, only to find his father has died, his estate is derelict, and the girl he loved is engaged to another. But then he rescues a half-starved urchin girl and takes her home—an act which, it turns out, will alter his life.

Last year my local PBS ran the BBC Poldark adaptation from the 70s & they showed a title card for the new adaptation that has just begun to air in the US through Masterpiece, and though I'd never heard of it, I found out that this was all a big deal and so were the books, back in the day. There's serious fandom devoted to television adaptation and book. I thought it looked interesting and I'm always up for a good period drama so I watched and quickly realized that I was going to need to read the books. Now that I've read the first, I'm fairly sure that I'm going to need to go on through with the rest of the series.

Ross returns home to Cornwall and literally has just about the worst homecoming a person can have upon returning from a war scarred and lame (I don't recall him being lame in the television adaptations but then again, Ross is the sort of character that I think it would go unnoticed anyway). His father is dead & he's left nothing but debts, the family home, Nampara is in such a state that to say it's dilapidated would be a kindness and his fiancee, Elizabeth is now engaged to his cousin, Francis and their nuptials are imminent. That he didn't board ship and head off into the horizon or pitch himself down an mine and have done with it all speaks to the man. I will grant that Ross does a good bit of being wounded given the situation with Elizabeth and who could blame him but he also rolls up his sleeves and gets to setting right the things he can control in his life and that was utterly charming.

No major spoilers but I will say that I liked the mining business portion of the story and especially the Warleggans, who are just determined to own, consume and conquer. I'm pulling for Ross but like that he has formidable obstacles and the odds are not in his favor. There's a fair bit of class warfare going on as well and that was interesting theme as well. As for other characters, Demelza is quite endearing (he family is a catastrophe) and even with the age difference, I can see how she & Ross will work longterm. Verity is so very good that I just want good things for her and feel badly for her as she's either ignored, taken for granted or ordered & expected from by just about everyone but Ross. He treats Verity like an individual with a mind and feelings of her own. Their relationship is one of my favorites and I truly think she's more Ross's little sister than Francis's. Francis and Elizabeth seem like a good match as they care about the same things and I'm looking forward to Ross realizing that too. Jud & Prudie are a complete wreck but I admire Ross's ability to tolerate and care for them in spite of their flaws. I like to think that's what his father would have wished.

All in all this was an enjoyable read and is peopled with colorful characters. The sense of place and time is well rendered and I found this very readable. I'd recommend it to fans of historical fiction and I will be continuing with the series. I've already bought Demelza.

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