Scott's Book Review

Demelza

Demelza

Winston Graham

Scott

Tonight (Sunday 4th September 2016) sees the screening of the second series of the newly made Poldark historical drama on BBC TV. Many of us will remember the 29 episode TV adaptation with Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees which ran from 1975-1977. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075560/?ref_=nv_sr_2) Forty years on, and it’s Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson who are serving up the local intrigue, and sizzling sexual chemistry.(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3636060/?ref_=nv_sr_1) Their world is one where an honest man has a glistening six pack-ripped torso. His honest girl has flowing red locks and a plangently beautiful smile. It is a world where John Nettles, playing Ray Penvenen and who used to sprint across the beaches of Jersey, looks as if he couldn’t run the length of his own waistband. Scheming, rapaciously greedy bankers are too well groomed to have a mote of decency in them. You should always be suspicious of a ringlet on the forehead of a man.

It is Winston Graham (http://www.winstongraham.org/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Graham#The_Poldark_novels) we have to thank for conceiving all this historical drama in twelve books set in Cornwall at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. The 12 Poldark novels, from Ross Poldark (1946) to Bella Poldark (2002) cover a remarkable publishing span of 56 years.

If you love the setting, the adventure, the period detail and the rollicking emotion why not read one of the original novels? Miner’s daughter Demelza and her dog Garrick have been taken home from Redruth Fair by Captain Ross Poldark. Demelza’s new life as a kitchen maid will at least be better than the beatings she is used to. Poldark has previously returned home from the American Revolutionary War only to learn that his fiancée, Elizabeth, has given him up for dead and promised to marry his cousin, Francis. Demelza then develops into a charming, amusing, spirited and lovely young woman, eventually winning the affection of Poldark. Dark and earthy, she contrasts with the fragile Elizabeth. The two women are wary but polite towards each other. Demelza shows courage and fierce loyalty to Ross, but she is somewhat impulsive, causing trouble for both of them.

The novel Demelza opens with the birth of Ross and Demelza’s baby girl. The new mother plans two christening parties, one for the country folk and another for the gentry. Trouble arises when her father, now a Methodist and wearing his religion like a cloak of righteousness, shows up on the wrong day and promptly insults some of the guests. Put in the uncomfortable position of defending his father-in-law, Ross must intervene. Demelza flees to the house, mortified. “… I thought I would show ’em I was a fit wife for you, that I could wear fine clothes and behave genteel an’ not disgrace you. An’ instead they will all ride home snickering behind their hands…” Much of the novel centres on Ross’s efforts to break the monopoly held by the copper smelters, who are keeping copper prices artificially low. Through the new Carnmore Copper Company, Ross and his investors are buying up copper from the mines and smelting it themselves. The profits from the company will benefit not only Ross and the other investors, but the miners themselves, for whom he genuinely cares. Ross’s struggle to keep the greedy and heartless Warleggan family out of this venture is a central themes of the story.

Demelza is intent on reuniting Verity with Captain Andrew Blamey, whom Verity had renounced after the disastrous meeting between him and Francis Poldark in the first novel. Demelza’s motives spring from her desire to see Verity happy, but because Ross disapproves, she keeps her involvement a secret from him. Meanwhile, Ross is again caught up in the sad affair of Jim Carter, the young man sent to prison for poaching. When Ross pursues a dramatic course of action to save Jim, the result is enmity between him and several county leaders.

At a party given by the Warleggans, the men single out Demelza as the reigning beauty of the evening. Ross, in a dark mood, doesn’t notice, and Demelza is bewildered by the experience. The only man whose attention she craves is her husband’s, and he is involved in a card game, the outcome of which serves as a catalyst for all that happens in the remainder of the book. After her shaky start as a hostess at the christening party, Demelza proves herself many times over, not only to eighteenth century Cornwall society, but more importantly to her beloved Ross. And when an unforeseen crisis strikes, Demelza steps in and shows her loyalty to the Poldark family at considerable risk to herself.

Should you be smitten by the whole setting and drama, Cornwall is a single (albeit lengthy) train ride away! A Crosscountry service leaves Motherwell station at  9.15 am weekdays, arriving 11 hours later in Redruth. If the armchair escape is more convenient enquire at your local library or consult  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Demelza-Poldark-Winston-Graham/dp/1447281535/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1472975091&sr=8-5&keywords=poldark+graham for full bibliographic detail.

 

528 pages in Pan paperback

First published 1946

ISBN 978-1447281535

 

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Winston Graham

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