This eighth installment of the Poldark Saga begins with King George III and his final descent into madness in 1810, and it ends with a marriage proposal for one of the Poldarks, refused, in 1811. Ten years have passed since the ending of the seventh book in the series, The Angry Tide. The growing-up years of Ross and Demelza’s children—Clowance, Jeremy, and little Bella—have been largely happy and uneventful. The Ross Poldark family are neither immensely rich nor poor, neither socially active nor reclusive, and finally comfortable and happy. Ross and Demelza are comfortable in their marriage; the enmity between George Warleggan and Ross Poldark has moved into a phase of distant truce, after the death of Elizabeth Warleggan at the end of The Angry Tide. Ross’s tin mine produces an adequate living, but not too much.
George Warleggan continues in this book to be rich, although he nearly loses his fortune in a bad investment decision. Ross Poldark continues to be idealistic and somewhat eccentric. Demelza is still salt of the earth and beautiful and commonsensical, all at the same time. In fact, all of the old characters from the previous seven novels make an appearance, each one playing his part. But the focus has shifted in this book to the younger generation: Ross and Demelza’s children, Valentine Warleggan, Geoffrey Charles Poldark, the progeny of the Sawle villagers, and other turn of the century young adults who are now coming of age and making their own decisions about love, friendship, and business.
Then, there’s the “stranger from the sea”, one Stephen Carrington, rescued from drowning by Jeremy Poldark and friends. It’s a bit odd that the book is named for Stephen Carrington, and I wonder who had the authority to give titles to these books, the author or the publisher? If Mr. Carrington were not the eponymous “stranger” of the title, he would not be nearly so important a character in the book as he seems, given the reference. Stephen Carrington is certainly mysterious throughout the book; I never did know whether to believe a word he said, even though he was a likable, perhaps harmless, liar. But the story is really about Jeremy and Clowance, not Carrington or any one of the other suitors attracted to Clowance, and certainly not either of Jeremy’s erstwhile flames. Jeremy is really more in love with steam engines than with with girls, although he manages to have loved and lost (a girl) by the end of the book.
I find the history woven into these novels—the Napoleonic wars, the madness of King George, the political maneuverings of Whigs and Tories, the Industrial revolution—by Mr. Graham to be fascinating, and the picture Graham draws of a society in the midst of upheaval and change is excellently well done. I recommend all of the Poldark Saga novels that I’ve read so far, and I plan to read the next one, The Miller’s Dance, post-haste in hopes of finding out what will happen to Miss Clowance Poldark and Master Jeremy Poldark as they come into adulthood.