Bella Poldark by Winston Graham – Or why I reread a series of twelve books!

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This is a book that I have read twice, along with the other eleven books in the Poldark series. It is really difficult to write a review of the final book in the series without giving too much away. This is especially true when many people have only watched the television version and are effectively still in the early books. Do certain characters, notably Demelza, Ross, George, Elizabeth survive? Who has which children? Who marries who? How on earth do they get to the situations they are in? These questions and so many more are dealt with in the eleven books that lead up to this one, and this one answers some questions if not all that the attentive reader has by this point. It is a book which seeks to expand a story with many strands and aspects already in place; its final place in the series means that it has to finish off many parts of the stories even if it possibly was not intended as such.

Who is Bella? Why does her name give the title to the book? Compared to Ross and Demelza, why should she be the focus of the story? The Battle of Waterloo has been and gone, but all is not well as a result of it in faraway Cornwall. Unwise marriages and investments have also left their mark, and here recovery may or may not be made. This book includes both sorrow and loss as well as joy and gain, just as the other books have done, but with a sense of finality. The setting is once more thoroughly explored so the reader feels as if they recognise the houses and the countryside as well as the people, could almost draw a map of the walks and journeys. It is a big book which achieves a lot within its pages, giving information about people and their feelings so lives are changed. The reader’s understanding is extended, the expectations of the characters either fulfilled or defeated.

Over the range of twelve books written over an immense range of time (from the mid twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty first), it is no surprise that there are weak spots or even novels which are not up to reader expectations. They are sometimes repetitive, melodramatic and predictable, and there is at least one character who I found annoying. They are also familiar, comforting, entertaining and challenging, as it is always difficult to foresee what will happen to certain characters. The early loss of one of the central characters shows that Graham was not above killing off characters if he felt the narrative warranted it, so no one is truly safe. So there is the urge to read on, not sure what will happen next. There is uncertainty if Graham really intended this to be the final book; as he wrote it only in the year before his death it is possible that he intended to revisit some of the characters. So this is not the book where everyone dies, happily. I have read all twelve books twice, I really enjoy both television versions, and I am fighting the temptation to read the books all again. I think that they are that good. There are some books which I have not enjoyed so much, but it remains my favourite series of books for readability, engagement and sheer enjoyment. “Bella Poldark” is a suitable place to finish, and this is a master storyteller still at the height of his powers.

Just finishing laying plans for the Derby Book Festival 2018. Lots of great authors making their way to Derby this year!


6 thoughts on “Bella Poldark by Winston Graham – Or why I reread a series of twelve books!

  1. I completely agree with you. I’ve also read the whole series twice, the first ones as they were published, and will probably read them again sometime in the future. I also like that Winston Graham was so careful to get all the historic details correct. I prefer the original TV series, for me Angharad Rees was the perfect Demelza, but the new series has grown on me.

    1. Winston Graham certainly worked hard on getting his setting correct, and it is a shame that they did not make more of the original series; I think it was because the books had not been written!

      1. Yes I believe that the BBC had to persuade Winston Graham to continue with the series years after he wrote the early ones.

  2. I read them all way back – but if they went into the 21st century probably actually not all of them – how funny! I read them all in great big hardbacks from the library in my teens. Highly readable. But it’s very hard to get some fudge for your catsitter that doesn’t have bloomin Ross Poldark on the box when you holiday in Cornwall regularly …

  3. I think, though I stand to be corrected, that only Bella Poldark was published in this century, and that in 2002. So not much to catch up on. I am enjoying the new tv series, but still admit to a great feeling for Robin Ellis…

  4. I sped through the first eight or so book, but I’ve only gotten as far as #10 and seem to have become distracted. . . I guess I’m just not quite as interested in the second generation of Poldarks and Warleggans (though I do want to find out what happens to Valentine). I still have the final two books and somehow I just keep putting them off. I’m still enjoying the series mostly though I do want to throw something at the TV sometimes, Ross is a little too-self righteous and annoying — I don’t know how Demelza puts up with him!

    I wonder how far the TV series will go? I can’t imagine they’re going to to jump forward in time, they’d have to recast all the main characters.

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