Mosman Readers

"Book lovers never go to bed alone"

OK, I will admit it.  Often my reading habits are dictated by the television.  On one hand, I generally read more when there is nothing on television, making my practice of the all important consumption of print entirely dependent on the inanity of another form of media.  On the other hand, I sometimes choose to read a book solely because I enjoyed a representation of the story presented on television.  This latter practice is particularly nefarious because one already has a mental image of the character’s appearance, speech patterns, and motivations before even opening the cover of a novel.  This makes it difficult to judge the literary merit of a book because we are prejudiced at the outset of reading it.

This was certainly the case with Ross Poldark, the first of a multi-volume saga first created by Winston Graham in the 1940s but rendered into television series twice since that date.  The story concerns the return of the title character from America after the end of the Revolutionary War and the complications he encounters while trying to adjust to life in his native Cornwall.  The complications include the marriage of his former sweetheart, Elizabeth, to his cousin Francis and the attempts to make his copper and tin mines pay in a time of economic downturn.  I cannot tell if the writing is good or not, since my eyes flowed across the text as my brain reviewed the scenes I had seen on television, pausing now and then to note differences in the story line.  However, if one were to measure a book by the pleasure it gives while reading it, I can certainly testify that this was a most desirable diversion on a cold weekend.  This first novel only follows Ross through the marriage of Demelza, his former scullery maid, and her first attempts to fit into Cornish society as the wife of a landed minor aristocrat.  George Warleggan, who is a completely despicable villain in the television series, has only a minor role in this first novel, and there is nothing to indicate he will grow in knavery as the series continues.  Ross himself is somewhat two dimensional.  We never really get the sense of the magnitude of his loss over Elizabeth’s marriage, and we are left wondering if he is a champion of the lower classes or simply a hothead.  Perhaps as the story works its way through subsequent novels these themes will be explored in more detail, but for a start this book is very entertaining.  The only problem is that even after I completed it, when asked if I have seen the show I will still be unable to haughtily reply, “NO, but I read the book.”

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Hi Kim,

I am inclined to agree with you, when I read Ross Poldark I felt that Ross was a very flat and 2 dimensional character whereas Demelza was the heart and soul of the piece. I didn't feel that Ross was truly devastated about losing Elizabeth either- he just came across as very impulsive!

I would rather finish reading the books first- as I have read bits and pieces of them- before I sit down and watch the TV series in earnest. I am one of those people who prefers to read the book before seeing the TV adaptation. The only problem with that is that my expectations tend to be waaay too high.

Thanks for your review, and very happy reading in 2017 :-)

Karen

I watched the first series and then started the books and had to read them all until I finished the series. I became a little obsessed with the story and watching all the characters and the storyline develop with the next generation. Ross certainly develops more fully as a character more like he is on the television series and George Warleggan remains his nemesis throughout.

I recommend that you continue to read through the series. Lots of history re the Napoleonic Wars in later books which I found interesting and didn't know before reading the books.

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