Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, by Winston Graham – A Review

Demelza A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 by Winston Graham 2015 x 200From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

If you’re like me, you are spending your Sundays killing time until Poldark lights up the TV screen. When I learned that Season One would be based on Winston Graham’s first two books in the series, Ross Poldark and Demelza, I was determined to read them before viewing the adaptation. Although the episodes I’ve seen so far can stand on their own merit, reading the books has given me a richer understanding of the two protagonists. If Ross’s character functions as the moral compass of the story, Demelza’s represents the emotional heart of the books. Her struggle to be accepted as Ross’s wife makes us empathize with her, root for her, right from the start.

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…” (51)

Much of Demelza centers 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 one of the 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 book. 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.

One of the subplots in Demelza left me scratching my head. Mark Daniel, a lifelong friend of Ross’s, falls in love with a girl from a traveling company of players. The tragic story of their romance and marriage is given in some detail, and while it has its appeal, it appears unconnected to the primary storyline. But it was one of only a few flaws in this otherwise well-plotted continuation of the Poldark saga.

No matter. Demelza is a book to love and to savor. 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.

The many plot threads involving Ross and Demelza and their separate pursuits help define the character of each, but the love story between them is at the core of this book. In the opening chapter, when Demelza is in labor, she begs Ross to tell her he loves her, and not Elizabeth. He does, but thinks, “What else was he to say when he did not know the truth himself?” (6) By the end of the book, neither Ross nor the reader doubts his love for Demelza. Ross, who takes a dark view of the nature of man, realizes a truth about himself, that his character is fundamentally pessimistic. Demelza is the opposite, and he loves her for it. He thinks, “Whatever she suffered, whatever loss came to her, she would throw it off, for it was not in her nature to go under.” (518)

Ross may be the man of action and moral certitude, but it is Demelza’s deepening wisdom that carries the story. At the beginning of the book, she says, “I shall never be wise, Ross…I don’t think I wish to be wise.” (28) But in the end, it is Ross’s words to her that capture her transformation. “I believe yours is the only wisdom, Demelza…” (521)

Discovering these books was a little bit like discovering Georgette Heyer. Both authors keep their books well-grounded in their respective eras, both use secondary characters to add humor, and both make the love story the focal point around which all the action revolves. As with Heyer, reading one book creates a hunger to devour them all.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 (Poldark Saga Book 2), by Winston Graham
Sourcebooks Landmark (2015) reprint
Trade paperback & eBook (432) pages
ISBN: 978-1492622109

Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

Additional Reviews

 Poldark Blog Tour Banner x 500

Grand Giveaway Contest 

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes 

In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.

Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:

  • (1) DVD of season one of Poldark
  • (2 ) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
  • (1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothers
  • (1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
  • (1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
  • (1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
  • (2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee’s Garden Heirloom
  • (1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham

To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Poldark Blog Tour Giveaway Prizes

GUEST REVIEWER BIO

Pamela Mingle is the author of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, A Pride and Prejudice Novel, and Kissing Shakespeare, winner of the 2013 Colorado Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, and The Jane Austen Society of North America, where she will begin a term as Regional Coordinator for the Denver/Boulder Chapter beginning in January.

A former teacher and librarian, Pamela lives and writes in Lakewood, Colorado. She and her husband enjoy walking in England, which has proved to be a wonderful way to discover new settings for her books.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2015; text Pamela Mingle © 2015, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

70 thoughts on “Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, by Winston Graham – A Review

  1. Wonderful review, thank you. I saw an interview with Aidan, Eleanor, Debbie Horsfield and Ed Bazalgette and the one thing they all said was, if the series leads people to discover the wonderful novels of Winston Graham then it was a success. Well, a success indeed! I am enchanted with the story Mr. Graham tells! His style of writing is so easy and engrossing and full of color. I am fully immersed and am grateful for the introduction to Mr. Graham and his cast of characters from Cornwall. :)

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    • Thanks, Maureen. I’m enchanted too. I loved Winston Graham’s descriptions–they really help to “color” the world he creates.

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    • I’m really enjoying the series too. The lead actors are so good–and so are some of the secondaries. Francis in particular–and Verity. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. I love this review!! I’m loving the TV series and hoping to read the books soon, but I’ve honestly just been so nervous for the characters as I watch the show, and this review has helped my fears a bit :) These characters are so real to me just from watching the TV show and I know the books will only deepen that! Thanks so much for sharing such thoughtful, deep insight!

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    • Thank you, Elizabeth. I think you would love the books, since they really deepen our understanding of the characters. I look so forward to the show each week–I hate think about it ending!

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  3. I am loving the television series and now I’m even more enticed to read the books. Thanks for the great review!

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    • You’re welcome, Beth.. Since I loved the book, it was fun writing the review. Much more from DEMELZA still to come on the show.

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  4. I have already watched the series on British tv. It’a great story. I didn’t know the novel at all as I’m a French girl but I would enjoy reading the books. It looks like the series are very faithful to the original story.

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    • The series, because they compressed two books into 8 episodes, leaves a lot out. But I think they did a good job at choosing what was most significant to include in the show. They also changed things around a bit, for dramatic effect, no doubt–and it works. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Thanks for the lovely review! Comparing Graham’s writing to Georgette Heyer’s is high praise indeed, in my book, and makes me want to read his novels! I remember loving the 70 Poldark series on PBS, but had to miss some of the episodes.

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    • Your welcome–glad you enjoyed it. It’s wonderful to discover a new author! Like you, I watched some of the original Poldark series, but also missed a lot of it. I’m looking forward to the episode in which Robin Ellis puts in an appearance!

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  6. Your review makes the book sound unputdownable (is that a word?!), so I’ll have to track them down. I was especially convinced I had to read them when you compared the author to Heyer, who is one of my particular favorites for the reasons you listed. Thank you!

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    • Thank you, Greta. I think “unputdownable” is a word, since I use it often! The Poldark books explore more serious themes, but do have the similarities to Heyer’s work I mentioned.

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  7. I didn’t see the old series with Robin Ellis as Ross but love watching the new series on PBS with Aidan Turner as Ross. I’m really enjoying reading all of the blogs on this blog tour! I’ve subscribed to follow most of them just to go back and explore previous reviews and anticipate future reviews of books. I think I’ll read all the blogs then read the Winston Graham books. This blog tour is a very interesting event. I’m glad I found out about it. Thank you for participating. Really loved your review and feedback to comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be hard not to like Aidan Turner, wouldn’t it? On the other hand…my husband is pretty smitten with Heida Reed (Elizabeth). Go figure! Glad you’re enjoying the blog tour and liked the DEMELZA review.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m reading Demelza now (about 1/3 through) and enjoyed reading your review. I read the first book and finished it last week. I love the current TV series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Hope you have fun reading the rest of DEMELZA. I keep wondering how I’ve missed reading the Poldark books for so long, but will now be making up for lost time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I do plan to read this series of books but have a number of others I have to finish first. I am enjoying the series even without the benefit of having read the books. I like reading the reviews as some of the actions or purposes are not always clear on the TV series.

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  10. WONDERFUL review! And I thought I couldn’t get any more excited about reading the books! Thanks for your description of Demelza being the emotional heart of the books! LOVE THAT!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for the thorough book review! I am so in love with the series on TV…the beautiful landscapes, the societal clashes, the historical elements, and of course the gorgeous and brooding Ross Poldark himself! As great as the show is, I cannot wait to learn more through reading Winston Graham’s books. Then I’ll be excited to re-watch the show with all my newly acquired background knowledge giving me a much deeper understanding of all that occurred. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so welcome. The setting really is a character in these books, I think. Ross Poldark is a great romantic hero–I love that he is so much for the common man.

      Liked by 1 person

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  14. I had never even heard of Poldark except the old show in passing and now that I’ve seen the reboot, I really want to read the books now! so great!

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  15. So excited to read this series! BBC and Masterpiece have brought the characters to life, but I can imagine cozying up with the books and a mug of tea to really delve deep.

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  16. I am enjoying the miniseries on PBS and look forward to reading the book. Thanks for the great giveaway!!!! raquel36m(at)gmail(dot)com

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I need to start with reading the books and then make my way through the TV series because my Twitter feed is constantly talking about this impressive series and I need to join in on the discussion.

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  18. Hi. Poldark is the best series by far. Love all the actors and they do their characters credit. Would love to read the books. Thank you.

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  19. Hi I have recently seen the Poldark series with Aidan Turner on my local PBS station. Great show and so looking forward in seeing Second Season. I have seen 1970’s version of Poldark with Robin Ellis. I was taken by surprise to see Robin Ellis in the new version. :)

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  20. New to this virtual book tour thing, but have loved watching Poldark and am so sad it’s over now until next summer! I hope this counts towards an entry in the giveaway!

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  21. I am totally obsessed with Poldark on Masterpiece and have been anxious to find, buy and read the books. I am newly acquainted with Austenpro but I’m already a huge fan! This is an amazing giveaway and i would be absolutely thrilled to win it.

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