|My volume of the first two Poldark novels|
If you’re not familiar with Winston Graham’s novels, they’re set in 18th-century Cornwall. In the first one, Ross Poldark returns from serving in the army fighting the American Revolutionary War to discover his family’s mine is making no money and his sweetheart Elizabeth is about to marry his cousin. The series is a long one, and throughout it fortunes are made and lost, feuds waged, people marry and have children and die. In a crude way you could say it’s Dallas crossed with Wuthering Heights. When I first moved to the south-west and was flat broke, I’d get a few of the books out of my local library and have myself a Poldarkathon at the weekend. Jolly good free entertainment. The books are easy to find secondhand, too.
The first Poldark novels were published in the 1940s and 1950s, but they didn't make it to television until 1975. The fifth novel in the series wasn't published until 1973, so perhaps the books' revival led to interest in making a television series. I wasn’t so taken with the 1970s programme, which I watched on video. It didn’t have the same subtlety as the book, and I always liked Ralph Bates, who plays Ross' great rival, George Warleggan, so could never quite see him as the greedy villain he was playing. However, Angharad Rees was massively popular as Demelza (an urchin Ross takes on as a servant, and later marries), to the point where some men in their 60s still get misty-eyed over her. Bit of a forgotten 1970s icon, there. My volume of the first two novels has Robin Ellis as Ross and Angharad Rees as Demelza gazing into one another's eyes.
This week the new programme has been filmed in Corsham in Wiltshire. I live in Wiltshire, and love the county, but can’t help wondering why they weren’t filming in Truro itself. We have different buildings here. Different local stone. We don’t have a coastline! I daresay some words have been said about it in Cornwall. And then I saw a photo of Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark on the Wiltshire Times website. AY CARAMBA. I’m rather keen to see the new version of the programme now...