Some years ago I read Ross Poldark by Winston Graham. I fell headlong into the story and quickly recommended the novel to my dad who shared it with a friend. The three of us have varied reading tastes, but share a love of fine historical fiction and each of us read the entire series (12 books!). I’ve been rereading it, and it's just as wonderful as I remembered. Why?
Let’s start with the fabulously good dialogue and concise description. Graham reveals character and relationships in deft strokes. Add a strong sense of place and accurate historical details which bring to life the social upheaval in Cornwall and England from 1783 - 1820's: the corn riots, smuggling, the vagaries of mining, the effects of industrialization and the Napoleonic wars.
In the first novel Ross Poldark returns home after fighting in the American colonies to a world where nobody is much interested in or affected by the war he fought in. He’s been gone so long that everyone close to him thinks he died. What does he find? His father dead and buried, the house he inherited in a squalid state. I’m not even going to tell you what his sweetheart has done!
In 1975 the BBC adapted some of the early Poldark novels into a tv series which was wildly popular. In June 2015 PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre will air a new BBC production starring Aidan Turner as Poldark. I plan to watch it with my dad, so we can compare the screen versions to the novels we love.