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This book continues the fictional story of Capt Ross Poldark, his family and the Cornish community in which they live. This is done against wider factual national issues, and relationships with our European neighbours, covering the period 1792-93.
The Poldark series was originally written, between 1945-50, as a trilogy, but then extended to this fourth book in 1953. Although this book doesn't tie up all the loose ends of the storyline, it was intended to be the last, as it was until, after a long break of 20 years, the fifth one was published in 1973.
As the author, Winston Graham OBE and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, died in 2003, we know that the series is now ended at book number 12. These books were written between 1945 and 2002, helping readers experience what is was like to live in between the years 1783-1820, in an entertaining way. (History lesson weren't anywhere near this good at my school.)
Despite the adult nature of a lot of the storylines, don't expect a lot of graphic descriptions of violence and sex in this book, as it was written to be suitable reading for many, at a time a lot less liberal than ours. Reading all the books in the series shows how readers' attitudes have changed over nearly 60 years, as the author includes more details in "adult" scenes.
It is preferable but not essential to read the books in order. Preferable because later written books will contain plot spoilers for earlier ones. Not essential because the author gives enough background information to give readers all they need to know to enjoy them on their own.
PLOT SUMMARY (without spoilers)
Here I will give examples of the wide ranging plot lines.
In just two generations the Warleggan family have risen from blacksmiths to prosperous bankers. They continue to grow in power and prestige despite the fact that others, who are financial equals, have difficulty accepting them as social equals.
George Warleggan, the youngest businessman in the family so far, has something of even greater value than his business interests, as far as his neighbour and rival, Ross Poldark, is concerned. There are fears that a jealous Ross will lose his temper and want to settle matters with violence.
Meanwhile in the mines some potentially fatal safety risks are being taken, which many see as justifiable, as times are hard for a lot of owners, as well as the front line workers.
Among the main characters, as well as the normal life events of births, marriage and deaths, there is adultery, rape, an unplanned pregnancy, planned pregnancy, a planned elopement, a wedding, and an accidental death.
As people get even more desperate for basic needs, a traitor is expected to be at work in the community, as men turn to smuggling to get money to relieve the poverty of their families. A murder or suicide results, but did it happen to the "right" person?
Meanwhile the (mostly) good Dr Enys is believed to have performed a miracle cure on a child who was seemingly crippled for life. But will readers think his "research" to achieve this unethical?
This is one of my favourite books, as the plot changes quickly from adventure, to lust and romance, and to business wheeling and dealing, which could result in poverty or riches to those involved.
As with the other books in the series, I felt like I was being transported back in time and enjoyed experiencing the characters, sights, sounds and smells through the author's words.
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Pan Books (6 Jun 2008)
Ross Poldark plunges into a speculative mining venture which threatens his financial security and his stormy marriage to Demelza. When the old attraction between Ross and Elizabeth begins to rekindle itself, Demelza retaliates by becoming dangerously involved with a Scottish cavalry officer.