Day 1098: Bella Poldark

Cover for Bella PoldarkI’ve finally finished the last of 12 books in the Poldark series with Bella Poldark. I enjoyed the first six books very much but was only mildly interested in the others and finally only continued because I wanted to finish the series.

This novel is not exactly what you might expect of the last of a series. It resolves some of the continuing subplots but not others. I was surprised to find it introducing some new characters while hardly mentioning some who featured strongly in the other books.

Set in 1818, Bella Poldark is principally concerned with the romances of the two Poldark daughters, Clowance and Bella. Clowance is now a widow, but she has two suitors, Captain Philip Prideaux, a former soldier, and Lord Edward Fitzmaurice, who has been in love with Clowance since she was a girl. But Clowance feels still half in love with Stephen and half hates him because of his lies.

Bella has been courted by Christopher Havergal for years, and he helps her find a voice teacher in London and begin her career as a singer. But a French empresario, Maurice Valéry, offers her a part in an opera in Rouen and himself.

Valentine Warleggan’s affairs are also a concern of the novel. They become entangled with another subplot, a murder mystery. Someone has been killing young women in the area. When Valentine’s latest mistress is a victim and he is questioned about it, his wife, Selina, has had enough and leaves with their son, George. Valentine at first leads a life of dissipation, but when he realizes that his putative father, George Warleggan, is interesting himself in his son, he decides he cannot leave young George to be raised by old George, as he was.

In all, although this novel was more interesting than some of the others, I felt sometimes as if Graham was trying to juggle too many balls. I am happy to have finished this series even though I only found the later books moderately interesting. So, I am happy in more ways than one.

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Day 1069: The Twisted Sword

Cover for The Twisted SwordA short side note before starting my review for today. The shortlist for the 2017 Man Booker prize was recently announced. You can see the shortlist on my Man Booker Prize Project page. I am getting behind on that project, having read hardly any of the books for the most recent years. I have one excuse besides too many books, too little time, and that is that some of them have been hard to locate.

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It was a nice change to have most of this penultimate novel of the Poldark Saga be more about Ross and Demelza than their children. It is 1815, more than 30 years since the start of the series. At the beginning of the novel, Ross is summoned to London.

The Napoleonic Wars have been a backdrop to most of the series and come to the fore in this one. Although Napoleon is exiled to Elba, the British government is getting conflicting reports about the loyalty of the French army toward the Bourbon government. England is depending upon the stability of France, so the Prime Minister wants Ross to travel with his family to Paris as an independent observer and make visits to various army regiments.

Ross and Demelza take their two youngest children and ask Dwight and Caroline to join them later. The family enjoys Paris despite Demelza’s fears about her social skills and lack of French. Ross finds that one of the sore points in the French army is the return of the aristocrats, who demand their old positions from men who have been fighting for years. Of course, no one knows that Napoleon is shortly due to escape from Elba.

I enjoyed this novel, with its focus on well-known characters, more than I have the last two or three. I think this enjoyment is mostly because I don’t find the Poldark’s children very interesting, and they certainly don’t make good decisions. We spend time with some of them, though, particularly Clowance and her husband Stephen, as Stephen finds that George Warleggan’s help isn’t what it appears to be.

All in all, I am happy to be nearly finished with this series. It started out very good, but now I am just determined to finish it.

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Day 1053: The Loving Cup

Cover for The Loving CupI continue to feel less satisfied with the Poldark series as it comes to the end. The only reason I have kept reading at this point is because I have read 10 of the 12 books. Also, I would like to see what happens to Ross and Demelza.

Unfortunately, I am less interested in their children, and the last two books have been mostly about their oldest two. Neither Jeremy nor Clowance seems well defined to me, and both of them have poor judgment.

Early in this novel, Clowance, whose only good judgment of late has been to break off with Stephen Carrington, reconciles with him. They marry shortly after, and Stephen looks to be getting himself into George Warleggan’s clutches financially.

Jeremy is regretting the unlawful act he committed with Stephen and his friend Paul. It is 1813, and there is still war on the continent, so Jeremy has decided to enlist to get away, especially from thoughts of his unsuccessful pursuit of Cubey.

While Ross is away serving his last term in Parliament, Demelza makes a discovery that causes her to have doubts about Jeremy. She begins wondering if she and Ross have done a good job of raising their children.

I will read this series to the end in the hopes that Clowance and Jeremy will get some sense. Unfortunately, only the older characters who have been with the series from the beginning seem to have much depth.

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Day 1014: The Stranger from the Sea

Cover for Stranger from the SeaThis eighth Poldark novel begins in 1810, ten or eleven years after the last one. Ross and Demelza’s oldest two children are a young man and woman, and to some extent the novel focuses on their futures.

The Stranger from the Sea begins with George III descending yet again into madness. This situation creates a problem for the country. Wellington is recently in charge of the British army in the Peninsular wars, but the Tories fear that if George’s son is made regent, the Whigs will come into power and make peace with France. Some of Ross’s friends in Parliament ask him to go to Portugal and observe Wellington.

While Ross is away, his son Jeremy pulls a drowning man from the sea. This man is Stephen Carrington, who first says that his own ship went under in a storm but later admits to being a common sailor. Demelza is not altogether sure he can be trusted. Unfortunately, her daughter Clemence is greatly attracted to him.

On an expediction to reclaim the lugger Carrington says is his prize, Jeremy runs afoul of revenue officers and is hidden by the intervention of Cuby Trevanion. Jeremy is smitten, but her family makes it clear that he is not worthy enough.

George Warleggan has also been smitten, 10 years after the death of his wife, Elizabeth. The woman who has attracted him is a widow, Lady Harriet Carter. Although she herself is impoverished by her husband’s debts, she comes from a much higher social strata than George, so he makes some risky investments in an attempt to impress her brother.

Ross and Demelza are still very present in this novel, but the focus seems to be moving to their children. Since we don’t know them well yet, this novel feels transitional. Still, I was interested as ever to see how things would work out.

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Day 991: The Angry Tide

angry-tideAt the beginning of The Angry Tide, the seventh novel in the Poldark saga, Ross Poldark is taking his place for his first term in Parliament. George Warleggan is so jealous about what he sees as having his seat stolen that he is buying property so that he can represent a pocket borough, a borough with few or no inhabitants. What is more serious to Ross, though, is that the Warleggans are again plotting to bring down Pascoe’s bank.

When the threat comes to Pascoes, Demelza is left to deal with it, as Ross is away in London. She does what she thinks Ross would do, which is to try to support Ross’s friend Pascoe.

While the Poldark’s marriage is still shadowed by Ross’s knowledge that Demelza was unfaithful to him, the Warleggans are getting along better. George has finally accepted the idea that Valentine is his own child.

Poor Morwenna Whitworth feels herself to be close to losing her mind. Although her husband Ossie has been told that having another child could kill Morwenna, he begins insisting on his marital rights again. But twice a week isn’t enough for him, so he begins a dangerous liaison. Soon, he gets what he deserves.

This novel is another worthy continuation of the Poldark series. Although I don’t always like the directions Graham takes, the story is always interesting.

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Day 956: The Black Moon

Cover for The Black MoonThe Black Moon is the fifth book in Winston Graham’s Poldark Saga. It is now 1794.

Ross and Demelza Poldark have weathered the difficulties of their marital breach, and the result is that Demelza is again pregnant. The feud between Ross and George Warleggan has been in abeyance, but in this novel George shows that he is even more of a villain.

The difficulty begins with a friendship. George Warleggan thinks that Geoffrey Charles Poldark, his stepson, is spoiled from spending too much time with his mother. He wants to send Geoffrey Charles to school or failing that, get him a tutor, but he compromises with Elizabeth by allowing her to hire her cousin, Morwenna Chynoweth, as Geoffrey Charles’s governess. While Geoffrey Charles and Morwenna are out on the beach, they meet Drake Carne, one of two of Demelza’s brothers who have come to the area looking for work.

Although there is quite a distance in their stations, Drake being the son of a miner and Morwenna the daughter of a vicar, Drake and Morwenna’s friendship gradually turns to love. Morwenna has no idea that George has been plotting an advantageous marriage for her—at least one that allies him with an established family of the area.

In the meantime, others are interested in the news from France. Ross hears that Dwight Enys’s ship has been sunk after a naval battle. He goes to some trouble to find out if Dwight is alive, both for his own sake and that of Dwight’s fiancée, Caroline Penvenen. Eventually, Dwight’s plight leads Ross into an even more hazardous venture.

Some foreshadowing of future events, possibly, comes with the birth of George Warleggan’s son Valentine. He is born under a black moon (an eclipse), which the local people believe is an ill omen. And perhaps there are small indications that he will not be a normal child. I don’t know, but I am interested to find out.

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Day 925: Warleggan

Cover for WarlegganIt seems that the more books I read in Winston Graham’s Poldark Saga, the more interesting I find it. In the fourth book, Warleggan, we get more insight into whether George Warleggan is the villain Ross Poldark thinks he is. Short answer—yes.

Ross and Demelza’s marriage undergoes serious tests in this novel. First, at a party, Elizabeth, Ross’s first love, lets him know she made a mistake when she married his cousin Francis instead of him. Ross is no fool, and he realizes that this inability of Elizabeth’s to know her own mind has poisoned her own marriage to Francis, because Francis has realized that Elizabeth prefers Ross, too. Ross is sure that his betrayal by Francis, now forgiven, is at least partially because of this perception.

Early in the novel, though, Francis has an accident in the mine and dies. Demelza becomes more worried about Ross’s feelings for Elizabeth, especially since there is a new distance in her marriage with Ross.

The mine that Ross placed his hopes on, based on Mark Daniel’s comment after spending a night in it while hiding from the authorities, is not panning out as expected. Ross and Demelza are struggling financially, and the money to mine won’t last much longer. So, Ross decides to involve himself more directly with the smuggling trade by going along with the smugglers to see Mark, in hopes of finding out where he saw the ore. But there is an informer in the village.

Dwight Enys has finally decided to elope with the rich heiress Caroline Penvenen, because her relations won’t agree to her marriage with a penniless doctor. However, he must agree to leave Cornwall to marry her, and he is not happy to leave his patients.

Finally, the situation in Europe has become more unstable. Soon there will be a war with France, and no one knows how that will affect the country.

So far, this novel is the one in the series that has most involved me. I don’t know if this is because of my sympathy for Demelza or my ability to finally divorce this series from the new television series, which I saw before I began reading. I think there are eight more novels to go, and I’m looking forward to them.

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