Books Chosen by my DNA – Round 1: England – Book Review

For the first round of my literary trip around the world, and my DNA, I stopped in England. If you don’t know what I am talking about I posted an introduction post to the series here. For a short recap, this series is inspired by Booksandlala who got her DNA tested and then chose books based on what her DNA showed was her ancestral lineage. So, I am doing something similar. The two books that I had to choose between to represent England were Ross Poldark by Winston Graham and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Both books were historical fiction however Ross Poldark was written in the 1940s, whereas A Great and Terrible Beauty was written in 2003 and also has some fantasy elements.

The Book

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Title: Ross Poldark
Series: The Poldark Saga
Author: Winston Graham
Publication Date: 1945
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Summary

In the first novel of the Poldark series, Ross Poldark returns to England from war. He had expected to return to a joyful return to his beloved Elizabeth. However, when he returns his father has died, his family home is in disarray and overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and that Elizabeth – having believed Ross had died in the war – is engaged to his cousin. Ross is forced to start a new life, having his heart broken and his home falling apart. He spends much of his time rebuilding and repairing his home and farm, while kicking his servants into gear. He eventually stumbled upon a young girl who he takes in as a kitchen maid. These events are the catalyst to what is a life built through hard work and being a more sympathetic man of the upper crust of English society. Having always been somewhat of a black sheep Ross is not afraid of being different from his family.

So he had found that what he had half despised was not despicable, that what had been for him satisfaction of an appetite, a pleasant but commonplace adventure in disappointment, owned wayward and elusive depths he had not known before and carried the knowledge of beauty in it’s heart.

My Thoughts

I will be honest, a big draw to reading this book was that a new BBC adaptation came out a few years ago. If I am being totally honest, the biggest draw was that my favourite actor is the lead in the new TV adaptation of the books. So there, I said it. I shamelessly read the book because there is a TV adaptation and the only reason I am interested in watching it eventually is because my favourite actor is in it. Though, I don’t think I’m the only one who has done something like that.

Onto what I thought about the book. It was a good book. Sometimes I forget that I actually really enjoy Historical Fiction novels. Something about experiencing a different time period and completely different customs is endearing and fascinating. I really enjoyed the writing style of this book. It was mostly from Ross’ perspective but in certain situations or when certain events were happening the perspective changed to a character that was involved in that situation. For example, Demelza is a young girl who Ross takes in as a kitchen maid, in many situations Ross and Demelza have interactions that change and effect both characters. Graham often began the scene in Ross’ perspective but will add in some of the same scene in Demelza’s perspective. I really enjoyed this because you never get a full idea of what all the characters are feeling, even Ross’ feelings and thoughts are not completely available to the audience, so there is always a bit of a mystery.

She never really knew his thoughts; his deeper reflections were masked behind that strange unquiet face with it’s faint pal scar on one cheek like the brand mark of a spiritual injury he had suffered. She only knew that at present he was happy and that she was the condition of his happiness.

This story is definitely a slice of life. Each part is divided into a certain number of years or months. Within these parts of the novel you get important events that happened between that timeframe. I think that this was a good way of telling the story because it is definitely a plot that follows a whole lifetime. In other words it keeps the story from being too slow and boring, though at times it does get a bit slow. I actually really enjoyed a lot of the story because there was a good mix of action and slow paced segments.

I gave Ross Poldark a 4 out of 5 because, though I loved it and really enjoyed it, I’m not sure if I am going to continue the series. The series is 12 books that follow different people in the Poldark family, as well as people connected to them. It follows their lives over years, seeing how things develop and change. I think one day I might continue, but I don’t know how interested I would be in some of the other characters. Characters like Ross, Demelza, and Verity I would be interested in seeing more from, but I don’t know if I would want to read an entire novel about a family that the Poldarks do work with or are social with. I’m also not sure what the plot would contain and 12 novels of everyday life in the late 18th century might be a bit much.

I really enjoyed being able to experience England, specifically Cornwall in the 18th century. It was interesting to have a bit of an example of what it might be like to live in that time period, how the different classes interact and view each other, the social politics, and just making a living. There wasn’t a lot that shocked me about this one, as there are many books and movies set in England in all different time periods, so there was not a lot that was unexpected.

Overall, I really did enjoy this one. It was a pretty nice read and was a good pace. There were definitely moments of stress and angst, but it wasn’t so much that I wanted to throw the book across the room.

On to my next stop! Ireland!

Stay tuned for the next update.

Sincerely,
Alex

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