Book Review: “Ross Poldark” by Winston Graham (4.5/5)

Originally published 1945. 393 pages in my 2015 paperback edition.

Originally published 1945. 393 pages in my 2015 paperback edition.

I wanted to start exploring the Poldark series based on the growing popularity of the adaptation on BBC. This is the first book in a 12-book series by Winston Graham about the Poldark family. I haven’t watched any of the show yet because I wanted to see if I would enjoy the book first, but now I think I will definitely start watching!

Ross Poldark is the story of Ross Poldark (naturally), who returns home to Cornwall after fighting in the American Revolution. His family is fairly prominent around the area, though they are not the wealthiest or most powerful, just generally respected for the most part. Before he left for the war Ross was engaged to Elizabeth and he was so excited to come home and be with her again. However, when Ross gets home he finds out that not only has his father Joshua passed away in his absence but that Elizabeth figured him to have died in the war (it’s not like he could have sent her a Facebook message) and became engaged to his cousin Francis instead. Even after seeing that Ross has returned home, injured but alive and safe, Francis and Elizabeth go ahead with their wedding and Ross has to both heal his broken heart and make out a living for himself and straighten out his father’s home and land basically on his own (not spoilers — this is all at the very start of the book).

I first couldn’t help thinking of Ross like Ross from Friends. He was clearly so heartbroken over Elizabeth and everything that was going on, but tried his best to put on a good show for the family…

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Even though it was apparent that he actually felt like this…

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Ross has a couple of servants around the house, Jud and Prudie, who do a lot more drinking than helping out but he generously keeps them around, if only more for companionship after his father’s death and his own emotional trauma, and they eventually shape up and really get to helping him run things again. He also is very kind to the impoverished miners in the area, and rescues a young girl Demelza from her abusive father. More about that in the next books… I think that what Graham was trying to demonstrate in Ross’s character is that his generosity and kindness despite having relatively little himself and feeling so down helped him turn everything around and be well rewarded by the end of the book.

In many ways, it’s really hard to believe that this book is over 70 years old and that it details life in Cornwall in the late 1700s. Graham’s writing provides a lot of insight into character, family relationships, romance, gender roles, class politics, small-town gossip, criminal justice… SO many topics that really transcend time and remain so modern and relevant. Some of the vernacular is dated but for the most part I found this to be an easy read for its age with a pleasant flow and good pacing. The book is separated into a few different books that each span a slightly different time period. We really come full circle with Ross after his return home and get set up well for the following books even though the ending is satisfying and not a cliffhanger. I greatly enjoyed Ross Poldark and rate it 4.5 stars. The next book is Demelza and I’m looking forward to it!

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One thought on “Book Review: “Ross Poldark” by Winston Graham (4.5/5)

  1. Pingback: WWW Wednesday #12 | The Bookish Barrister

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