Saturday, February 11, 2017

Period Dramas: Poldark

Period Dramas:


based on the series by Winston Graham

starring: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing, Heida Reed, Kyle Soller, Luke Norris, Gabriella Wilde

This review is in case you are not on GoodReads or live under a rock.
All pictures © 2015 PBS/Masterpiece

The setting: Cornwall, 1783. The hero, Ross Poldark, returns from fighting the rebels in America with a nasty scar on his face and a limp. He barely made it out alive but the thought of his sweetheart, Elizabeth Chynoweth, has carried him through. She promised to be true to him and so he believes. Sadly for Ross, he returns home to the news his father has died, his mine is closed, the estate is in ruins and his sweetheart is promised to another! Elizabeth is betrothed to none other than Ross' cousin Francis, who has always been like a brother to him.

Ross has no choice but to pick up his life and try to forget Elizabeth, but the Poldarks never forget. When the villagers on his property are starving, Ross seeks to redress the wrongs and thwart the wealthy bankers who own the local gentry, sometimes running afoul of the law. Ross' brashness and hot temper are softened by Demelza Carne, a miner's daughter he rescues and later marries. Demelza's good sense and loving nature keep Ross from becoming a wastrel like his father. However, the specter of the Warleggans, a family of blacksmiths turned bankers, is always in the background. Tragedy and numerous setbacks threaten to derail the happiness of the Poldarks.

Meanwhile, Ross' old friend, Dr. Dwight Enys moves back to his native Cornwall to treat the miners. Full of scientific theory and radical ideas, he quickly endears himself to the miners. His greatest vice is his kind heart and it threatens to ruin his career or advance it, depending on who you ask. 

This series has something for everyone. There's lots of drama, pent of anger, fighting, ROMANCE (sizzling and sweet at the same time. The love scenes are fade to black), shirtless scything and shirtless mining, drama, smuggling, class consciousness, social justice and did I mention romance? Also, Cornwall is as much a character as the humans. The incredible sweeping views of the ocean and the hills make me want to travel there and see the wild beauty of Cornwall. 

The hero, Ross, is wild and unpredictable. He has a hot temper but it is usually expressed when facing the unjust English laws of the time. He picked up some radical ideas in America and also feels a strong sense of guilt that his father failed his duty as a landowner to protect his people. Ross is brooding, moody, sometimes romantic and always passionate. He's had his neck in the noose a few times too many for me. Would I want to marry him? No way. Especially not after what happens in Season 2. He's too hot tempered for me. Would I want a wild fling with him? Oh my heavens yes! 
Francis Poldark

Francis Poldark, Ross' cousin, is the opposite of Ross. He's a gentleman born and bred. He doesn't take much interest in running the estate and feels overshadowed by his more proactive cousin. Francis also doesn't appreciate his wife and sister. He becomes an angry, embittered man. Frankly, I would call him a weenie and go back to my parents if I were Elizabeth. Scandal or no scandal!

Dr. Dwight Enys, the village doctor is my favorite of the male characters. He longs to do good in the community despite not making much money. He is always fair and uses the most scientific methods available to him (which will still make any modern person cringe). His biggest fault is his big heart. It's his one weakness and causes him some problems. 
Dwight Enys

George Warleggan is the villain of the piece. A grandson of a blacksmith and nephew of a wealthy banker, he reminds me a lot of Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter. George and Francis go way back and are friends despite the class difference. Ross, however, and George have never been friends. George feels contempt for the gentry because they can't manage their money and feels enmity for Ross who never lets George forget where he comes from. George lacks the sense of noblesse oblige the gentry are born with. His Uncle Cary, a true villain, has taught him that money is everything. If someone can't pay their debts, cut them loose. It's pay or lose with the Warleggans. They have no compassion and no sense of the duty that drives Ross. George just doesn't understand Ross and lives to thwart Ross and bring him down. House of Warleggan or Slytherin House?

George Warleggan

Jud Paynter, Ross's manservant, a drunken old man, provides the comic relief. Jud is always drunk and manages to do a minimum amount of work. He is forever quarreling with his wife Trudie but it is meant to be funny. Jud is very self serving but manages to be a favorite character anyway. There is a part in season 2 that is especially funny. 
Jud and Prudie Paynter

The women fare better in this series than the men.Demelza is my favorite character. 
he's sweet but also sassy. She's tough, patient and loving. She has the loveliest smile and most gentle heart. All the men love her and worship her, except for one, some of the time. I especially love her when she's sassy. She's so good for Ross. She is the perfect wife for him. She compliments his dark, brooding nature with her sunny nature and never fails to tell him when he's done something stupid. Demelza is a woman of her time and doesn't seem terribly anachronistic for who she is. 


I also love sweet Verity, Francis's older sister. She's sweet and loving in a more gentle sort of way than Demelza. Verity has been running the household and the farm since her mother died. Her father and brother fail to appreciate her. She longs for someone to love her and a family of her own. I really felt for her and am rooting for her to be happy. Ruby Bentall is familiar from Lark Rise to Candleford and The Paradise. She finally moves beyond giddy, foolish young girl to a major part of substance and she does not disappoint. Of all the characters, I think she best matches the description in the books.


Great-Aunt Agatha Poldark provides comic relief and foreshadowing. She is an old lady from a long ago generation when society was less restrained. She is proud of her lineage and her family name and wants to see it continued. Aunt Agatha reads tarot cards, issues dire premonitions and tosses out wisecracks. I love her! 

Caroline Penvenen, a young heiress who appears in Season 2, is also one of my favorite characters. At first she seems young, spoiled and immature but she grows a lot. She knows her own mind and longs for freedom to choose her own husband. However, she isn't all that rebellious. She loves her uncle and doesn't wish to cause a breach in the family, not just because she'll lose most  of her money, but because she is kind at heart. I especially love the way she speaks her thoughts through her dog, Horace. 

The only major female character I don't like is Elizabeth. She's cold, brittle and very much like a marble statue come to life. She does what she thinks is right but she isn't the best decision maker. I did feel sorry for her at first but she quickly lost my sympathy. She doesn't take an interest in estate matters and blames everyone else for her problems. She allows her feelings to interfere with Ross's life and ruins everything!

There are numerous secondary characters, including the miners and fisherfolk of the village. This isn't a Jane Austen drawing room comedy of manners but it is set in her lifetime for those interested in a little more rawness and historical background. I highly highly recommend picking up the first two books and watching the first few episodes of Season 1 at the same time. The TV series is remarkably faithful to the novels but the pace is much faster and the timeline condensed. Reading the books gives you a better understanding of the time period and introduces the supporting characters better. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.