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 1033: The Miller’s Dance

Cover for The Miller's DanceThe Miller’s Dance is the ninth Poldark novel in a series of 12. Perhaps 12 books is too many for a series, or perhaps the shift of focus more to the activities of Ross and Demelza’s children is a problem for me. I just feel a winding down of interest fighting with the feeling that, having read so far, I should finish the series.

It is 1812, so there are important historical events on the horizon, but they only receive a modicum of attention. Instead, we are focused on the love affairs of the two oldest Poldark children, Jeremy and Clowance.

In the last book, Jeremy proposed to Cubie Trevanion and was not accepted. He assumed it was because his lineage wasn’t good enough, but when he confronts her brother, he finds that what he needs is money.

Jeremy doesn’t have money, although he seems to have a future as an engineer. The person who has money is George Warleggan, and he sets about arranging a marriage between Cubie and his son Valentine.

Clowance betroths herself to Stephen Carrington, who for my money is not to be trusted for a minute. Ross and Demelza do not interfere but insist on a long engagement.

Although the novel contains brief accounts of the wars in Europe and with America, as I said before, it concentrates on Jeremy and Clowance. They are not the vivid characters their parents make, and I’m not that interested in their romances or in Jeremy’s steam engines, which we hear about in great detail. Three more books to go, but I probably wouldn’t read them if I didn’t want to know what happens to the family and if I hadn’t already bought the books.

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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 970: The Four Swans

Cover for The Four SwansThe sixth book in the Poldark series finds George Warleggan unable to dismiss the allegations that Aunt Agatha made about his son Valentine’s parentage before she died. He has been treating the baby Valentine with some distance and has been having Elizabeth followed. But he finds no evidence in support of his suspicions.

Ross Poldark has been offered a seat in Parliament, but he refuses to run, thinking that such a job will not suit his disposition. He is not happy to learn, however, that George Warleggan gets the position instead.

Demelza hears of a meeting between Ross and Elizabeth Warleggan, so she fears that Ross may be seeing Elizabeth again. When a young naval officer that Ross rescued from prison in France is attracted to her, Demelza is in the mood to pay him more heed than she ordinarily would be.

The economy is shaky during the wars with France. At first, the French seem to be foundering, but then everyone begins hearing of the victories of a new general, Bonaparte. Ross becomes impatient of having no more role to play than as leader of a group of Volunteers.

With the latest two novels, the scope is branching out to include more characters. This novel goes into the fate of Elizabeth’s cousin, Morwenna, who George Warleggan forced into an unhappy marriage when she fell in love with Demelza’s brother, Drake Carne. Morwenna’s repellent husband, Reverend Osborne Whitworth, has used the excuse of Morwenna’s illness after the birth of her child to molest her younger sister Rowella, who is the children’s nursemaid. We also hear more about the difficulties of the Carne brothers.

After six books, this series has not palled. From a mildly interesting start, it gets more and more compelling as it goes on. I have already bought the other six novels in the series.

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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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