Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Book Report: Warleggan by Winston Graham

Last year, a blog that I regularly read and enjoy compiled a list of happy books.  I love happy stories and the generous assortment of recommendations sparked my imagination.  The list is an awesome resource for a reader like me because of the sheer volume of books listed there that I had not yet read.  And happy books?  I am in! Among the books that looked most intriguing to me were the Poldark series by Winston Graham.  Historical novels of Cornwall England with a series of more than eight books to read seemed too good to be true.  I set to reading at once.

This month’s book review is of Warleggan, the fourth in the series.  The cover looks like a cheesy romance novel, but that is not at all the case.  As the series has progressed from the first novel, Poldark, characters in that first story have been developed.  The same characters are present in all of the novels thus far, but to varying degrees as time in the story has progressed.  The series begins as the story of Ross Poldark, a young Cornish gentleman returned from the 1776 war in America to find that his family estate and modest financial prospects have rather crumbled and that his beloved is set to marry another man: his cousin.  The fourth novel, Warleggan, find Ross slowly re-bulding his fortunes while his rival, new money upstart George Warleggan gains a seeming triumph of his own.

The basic outline of the story doesn’t do justice to the power of these novels, which are carefully written explorations of life choices, the foibles of humanity, and the path toward meaning and happiness in the world.  Though they are very much fixed in the time that the stories are set, the late 18th century, they are timeless as well.  It’s a story of privilege and opportunity; of poverty and exclusion; of wealth and power.  The authority of the natural world figures prominently, as both an arbitrary and capricious source of both misery and happiness.  

Happy has its own definition in these novels, as the characters search for happiness, only some of them aware that we must work toward our own meaning in life.  Reading them fills me with reflections about my own world and the ways in which I understand the meaning of happiness.

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