Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 by Winston Graham

After being wounded while fighting in the American Revolutionary War, Ross Poldark returns home to Cornwall, England to find his father dead, his sweetheart engaged to his spoiled cousin, his estate in ruins, and that everyone believed him dead in Virginia. But it takes more than that to keep Ross Poldark down, and he determines to rebuild his life almost entirely from scratch.

The BBC love Poldark - they made a TV series of it in 1975 and now they are remaking it (aired on PBS in the US), and the publishers are reissuing the books along with it. I have been watching the new series and it inspired me to pick up the books. Surprisingly, I have to say this is one of those rare moments when the "movie" is better than the books.

It's a great story with great characters and that is owed to the books, but the narrative of the books is a little stilted at times, which is something I find is common with books written and originally published in the 1940s and 1950s. Maybe it was just a different style of writing that isn't easy for modern readers to appreciate but regardless it takes getting used to.

It also seems the TV series follows the books fairly closely, so that there is not a huge amount of difference between them. Such a rarity means that while it may be enjoyable for people who have already read the books to watch a visual enactment of it, the reverse doesn't hold much for viewers who read the books after watching it. I tend to read the book after seeing the movie because I like to see everything the movie wasn't able to cover. In this case, because it so closely follows the books, reading them doesn't really give you anything the show doesn't. There's a little bit more to Jinny and Jim's story and we get to see more of Demelza's endearing, childlike antics which were mostly removed from the TV show, I think in order to make her seem older (she is only 13 at the start of the books). However, the internal dialogue doesn't really tell us anything the show isn't able to convey. At least, that was the case with the first book. I will likely carry on with the rest of the book series, especially if the TV series doesn't make it all the way to the end (though it likely will), but not right now.

I'm not saying the book wasn't enjoyable, just that it would perhaps have been more enjoyable to read it first, then watch the TV show, but unfortunately I've done it the other way around.

1 comment:

  1. The novel is pretty solid, but I feel that it was not Winston Graham at his best. The novel rarely got into the heads of Francis and Elizabeth Poldark. There were moments when I found Ross' interactions with Demelza a bit disturbing - especially when he personally washed her while she was naked. This happened after he first hired her as a kitchen maid and she was 13 years old. Ew. And I still found his reason for marrying her rather vague. To this day, I do not understand it. I'm not advocating the 1975 series' handling of this plot line. I simply found that stupid and unrealistic. But aside from Demelza's seduction of Ross, I found the events leading to their marriage not well written.


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