This is a book set some ten years after the exhausting events of the previous Poldark book, and the sadness and a little of the frustration still simmers between Ross and Demelza. Perhaps this would explain why he is away from Cornwall yet again, though at least this gives him opportunity to bring up to date another of the characters who finds himself away from the land and house he has inherited. It is difficult to write about a book when the previous novels (and indeed the television series!) deal with the fates of several characters, and the simple fact is that one or two do not make it this far, so it would be useful to read the previous books or catch up with some of the characters.
Having said that, this book would mark a point at which it is possible to pick up the books afresh. Two of the Poldark children feature here, Jeremy and Clowance, and it is interesting to say the least to see what they have turned out like, with such strong willed parents. I was a little disappointed that they are two dimensional compared with the restless, driven Ross and the brilliantly drawn Demelza. Both come over as inexplicably love struck, being attracted to people that are ambivalent about them, at least to begin with, in comparison with the great emotions of the earlier books.
Ross is still restless, seeking a cause, seemingly both desperately driven to adventure and risk while knowing he should seek the safety and comfort of home. He has become quite the celebrity, his opinion sought at the highest level. That is a little ironic given that he has been so blind to the desires and emotions of those around him. This episode does depend more than some on the historical background to the times, but Graham is still the master of personalising the greater political movements of the times and the great battles which have real effects on Cornwall, despite happening far away.
Demelza keeps her home going with her native wit which has become wisdom, though she still hesitates about the correct social forms and behaviour. She has also grown to appreciate that those of her generation are not proving immortal, and by extension she feels her age and that of those she loves.
Altogether, if you have read the previous novels, this eighth book in the series represents a new beginning in the saga enforced by the ten year gap from the previous novels. Its emphasis has changed, as no character remains unaffected by the commercial and industrial changes of the time. It lacks some of the passion of former novels, but it still retains the twists of fate and the adventures which seem to typify the life of all in Cornwall in the early nineteenth century.
The Poldark confusion is related to my obsession with the original BBC version which is freely available on DVD. By some chance or feat of organisation I put DVD (Series 2, Volume 1, disc 2) in to watch, which happened to be at the exactly same stage of many scenes shown later on last night’s episode…Even Northernvicar was amazed how some lines were the same, and some events given different emphasis. There is more comedy in the original, and the pace is slower to accommodate more detail. Ross seems to spend less time brooding, and I think his relationship with Demelza is more honest than in today’s version, certainly more affectionate. I suppose that it reflects the difference between vintage period drama and today’s, as far more can be shot outside, less important characters lost, emotions heightened. The result of our confusion? Robin Ellis is undoubtedly a more intelligent Ross, Anharad Reece less outwardly emotional, but more consistent as Demelza.
The 2017 Poldark is probably more dramatic in many ways, and I cannot wait to see where the battle comes from next week. Who will survive?