Poldark: Demelza by Winston Graham

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Demelza Carne, the impoverished miner’s daughter Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground rabble, is now his wife. But the events that unfold during these turbulent years will test their marriage and their love to the limit. Demelza’s efforts to adapt to the ways of the gentry – and her husband – bring her confusion and heartache, despite her joy in the birth of their first child. Meanwhile, Ross begins a bitter struggle for the rights of the mining communities – and sows the seed of an enduring enmity with George Warleggan.”

REVIEW: I enjoyed the previous novel in the Poldark series, as many of you would have seen in my previous review, and was looking forward to reading the second. I found this novel, which focuses on Demelza, to be even more enjoyable and doubtlessly my favourite in the series thus far. The story picks up not long after the end of the last novel, with the birth of Ross and Demelza’s first child; a daughter named Julia. Although Julia brings joy to them both, this novel sees much suffering not just for our two main characters, but for more minor characters that we have come to know and like, and even for some new figures in the tale. Demelza struggles to follow the etiquette required of the gentry, with a roaring success at her first public assembly but huge embarrassment at her baby daughter’s christening. Her struggle to fit in grows as Ross’ hatred for the gentry increases and he begins to break away from the established mining communities run by people like his debt-ridden cousin Francis and the powerful upstart George Warleggan in order to form his own, based on the needs of the miners and the families that live on his land. The couple are also placed under strain when Demelza secretly reunites their beloved cousin Verity with the disreputable Captain Blaney, a decision that Ross is furious about, but which soon turns out to be the right choice (at least thus far). Tragedy also strikes with the death of the imprisoned Jim Carter, kept in filthy and diseased conditions while serving his time in prison, which drives his widow Jenny to attempt suicide. My favourite sub-plot in the novel, however, was the story of Mark Daniel, a miner who meets a beautiful young actress who travels with a company of players and marries her. Despite the fact that he builds her a house from scratch (which is extremely romantic, I feel), Keren is dissatisfied with Mark, finding her new life dull and lonely as she is shunned by the rest of the community. Restless and passionate, she begins a secret affair with the new surgeon, Dwight Enys, a great friend of Ross’; when she is discovered by Mark, however, he murders her, and with Ross’ help is forced to start a life on the run. This particular plot unfolded slowly and was full of suspense, building up to the dramatic climax of Keren’s death, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The ending of the novel, however, brings the biggest tragedy of all, and this one I won’t mention as it would be too much of a shame to spoil it. Despite the heavy nature of this novel, which contains far more heartache for the characters than the first book did, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was gripped throughout. I look forward to eventually reading more of the series.

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