This week I’m doing something I don’t get to do often enough, which is promote a wonderful author who doesn’t need my help and who is already dead.
I have recently discovered the works of Winston Graham. Born in 1908 he was one of the most successful British authors of our time. He wrote forty novels that have been translated into numerous languages. The Poldark series is beloved by the world and yet I just found out about it.
Graham’s wonderful “Poldark” novels are about rural life in Cornwall beginning in 1783 and spanning several generations. His writing style grabbed me from the first pages and held me riveted. Right now, I’m reading the first of the twelve Cornwall novels “Ross Poldark”, published in 1945.
This is the blurb:
Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his family and his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers that his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth, having believed Ross dead, is now engaged to his cousin. Ross must start over, building a completely new path for his life, one that takes him in exciting and unexpected directions…
Thus begins an intricately plotted story spanning loves, lives, and generations. The Poldark series is the masterwork of Winston Graham, who evoked the period and people like only he could, and created a world of rich and poor, loss and love, that readers will not soon forget.
There are several interesting things to point out about the Poldark series that only other authors and avid readers would appreciate.
First, Graham was only in his mid-thirties when the book was written, but it feels as rich and gritty as if an old soul wrote it. The only book I can compare it to is “Wuthering Heights” written by a twenty-four year Emily Bronté.
Second, the style and POV’s shifts are complex but interesting. There is head-hopping and odd shifts in the omniscient POV galore, and it doesn’t hurt the story telling one little bit. It’s not a big issue. I just bring it up because I did so many rounds of edits this spring. I can’t help but think that if Graham were trying to get this treasure published today with certainty he’d take a beating from a contemporary editor. I’ve noticed in current publishing, especially the romance genre, the omniscient POV seems to be a fading thing of the past, which is a pity because it has a nice old-fashioned feel to it that suits the 18th century British sensibilities of the story.
Third, much of the dialogue is written in dialect. Many heavy dialects. There are tin-miners; Gentry class and even a “fluffy” woman with a heavy lisp. Her dialogue is written almost phonetically and it’s fun to read.
Fourth, this book is filled with brief, vivid descriptions, exactly the sort a contemporary editor might request be “cut”, because they are not adding to the plot or action.
The humor is dry but fabulous. Most of the comedy is provided by the many tragedies Ross Poldark’s drunken servants, Prudie and Jud, bring into his life. Ross is a tragic and romantic figure himself, a dashing young captain with a scar on his cheek. Both he and his mare are lame. His estate is crumbling around him. Fate is treating him unjustly and he seems powerless to complain let alone put his life back on track. It’s so subtle but I found myself hurting for him.
The books are charming but even better is the knowledge that PBS Masterpiece Theater is remaking the wildly popular Poldark series of the 70's starring the dark-eyed, brooding Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. The series will premier in 2015. I can’t wait. We’ve even been promised a forced seduction. Aidan Turner. Forced seduction. Allow that to soak in. Romance fans what more do you want?!