Ross Poldark

By Winston Graham,

Book cover of Ross Poldark

Book description

This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition of Ross Poldark features an afterword by novelist Liz Fenwick.

Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham's sweeping saga of Cornish life in the eighteenth century. First published in 1945, the Poldark series has enthralled readers ever since serving as the inspiration…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Ross Poldark as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

It seems that there is no detail of life in the late 1700s and early 1800s that Winston Graham doesn’t know. From aspects of history, geography, social class culture, medicine, ship-building, mining… Graham is ‘The Man’. But he is also a composite storyteller, weaving a compelling, generations-spanning narrative that charts the turmoils and triumphs of Ross Poldark and his family. One detail that I love is the representation of genuine female experience in a mode that is not about feminist agendas; Graham writes his women with compassion and complexity, making them far more than the housewives and bodice-rippers characteristic of…

It is the beginning of the 12-book Poldark series, ending with Bella Poldark in 2003. First published in 1945 (!), it begins to tell the tale of Ross Poldark, returning home from Cornwall, after serving the British side of the American Revolution. The story centers around Ross Poldark's family life, love life, and life itself, in the mining county of 18th-century Cornwall. I enjoyed reading the series of novels from which this one sprung. Ross is an intriguing character, brought happily to life in the 1970s by Robin Ellis. A newer series came to light in 2015, and that Poldark…

Yes, I know the Poldark books are presented as bodice-ripping romances in TV adaptations, but the books are a far more convincing exploration of the politics, economics, law, social structure, and mores of the late eighteenth century. With the exception of Ross himself, who has a suspiciously modern tendency to psychoanalytical introspection, the characters are properly of their time. And it is rare to find a male author who can get inside the heads of a wide range of female characters convincingly.

Probably my first serious crush (along with Mr. Darcy, of course). I fell in love with Ross Poldark and his wife Demelza and spent all my pocket money buying the series. It’s the 1780’s and times are hard in Cornwall: ruined harvests have brought corn riots and the wealthy landowners bemoan the lowering price of tin and copper. Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall to find his beloved Elizabeth engaged to his cousin. Winston Graham is a very exact historian. I love this historical period. It’s a great series and a must-read if you love eighteenth-century Cornwall. 

From Nicola's list on historical books set in Cornwall.

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