The Poldark Perusal - Book 5, The Black Moon
“Blemishes on the beauty of a person one loves are like grace notes adding something to a piece of music.”
-WINSTON GRAHAM, Poldark: The Black Moon
If you follow me over on IG, you probably already know I'm a pretty big fan of Poldark. I fell completely in love with the series on PBS Masterpiece, which ended at its fifth series last fall. The love I have in my heart for those Poldarks and Enyses and Carnes and—dare I say it, Warleggans, too—is insurmountable. No other period drama could reckon in its place.
I was determined to read the 12-book saga by Winston Graham, and started delving my way through last year with the first four books. It's been a while since I last came back to my Nampara family, and what can I say—I've missed them a lot!! Last month I picked up Book 5 (at long last), and have completely fallen in love with the story all over again. As a consequence, I've decided to mark my progress through the rest of the saga with a monthly update here on the blog. Welcome to The Poldark Perusal.
Book 5: The Black Moon
This review is pretty non-spoiler if you're a fan of the series on BBC / PBS Masterpiece, as the show ties in quite closely with the books.
Let's just get it out of the way and start by saying I loved it. The thing with this saga is, every book I finish ends up being better than the one before it—and when you already started with a fabulous 5-star Book One, it's a rare thing to improve upon every time. What can I say—Winston Graham has proven to be a masterful storyteller who manages to completely entrhall the reader into this world and time in history so well, so closely and devotedly, that the characters seem to become a part of your own world-view, like new life breathed into your more-than-two-hundred-years-later 21st Century existence.
The book covers roughly the first half of the series' third season, beginning with the birth of Valentine Warleggan and the entry of Demelza's well-meaning but trouble-making brothers, the lovable Sam and Drake Carne.
One of my favorite things about reading Poldark is spotting the way the books delve deeper where the series didn't, or vice versa, areas in which the series expands upon characters and events that get glossed over in the books. For example, the series goes into much greater detail into the birth of Valentine, as well as Elizabeth's concealment of her suspicion (gasp!) of Valentine's parentage. Another change: Dwight and Caroline's secret wedding from the first episode of season 3 wasn't in the book. I don't mind these changes in the least! I like both versions—in fact, I've never yet actually disliked any of the changes that were made in adapting the series. Debbie Horsefield proved herself a masterful adaptor and expander of Graham's world, which is a truly rare feat to accomplish.
One of the main things I was eager to read about it in Book 5 was the introduction of Drake and Morwenna, whose story is heart-wrenching and utterly gripping on-screen. Winston Graham revealed to me exactly why I love them so deeply—even more than I already did, if that were possible! I want to make note, Drake and Morwenna's physical descriptions in the book were unbelievably satisfying to read as a fan of the show, because somehow they managed to cast them to perfection from even the smallest details. Ellise Chappell is Morwenna—from the slanted dark eyes to the kindness and shy timidity in her bearing and expressions that Graham wrote about so distinctly. Harry Richardson completely envelops Drake's boyish charm and the dreamy nature that Ross finds so frustratingly, irresistibly Demelza-like.
And Sam! Oh, how we adore Sam, whose heart is in the right place at all times, but has so much more trouble communicating with it. It's like these three just stepped right out from the page...
Drake might just be favorite character at the moment. He's so unbelievably sweet, sensitive and down-to-earth.
“Drake loved this life; he loved everything about it: the sunsets, the moonrises, the ruffled golden glow on ripe corn, the ink-black sheen of a bluebottle's wings, the taste of fresh spring water, lying down and stretching on your back when you were tired, getting up in the morning with a whole new day ahead, eating fresh-baked bread, feeling the cold sea rushing round your legs, roasting a potato in the embers of a fire and peeling it and eating it while it was still too hot to hold, walking on a cliff, lying in the sun, turning a good piece of wood, beating the sparks from iron..."
Speaking of Drake and Morwenna... that brings us to Ossie Whitworth. What an awful, disgusting creature. I'd been curious how Graham would write about him, and whether he'd be nearly as loathsome in the book as the series presents him. The verdict? Yes. Yes he is. I don't even want to dedicate a paragraph of space to such an awful character, but I must note that he's even more manipulative, controlling, violent and vile than in the series—yet Graham does this cleverly with subtlety and hints, the odd description or out-of-place remark to capture what a scene is really implying—what pieces are really moving on the board when your opponent (in this tragic case, Morwenna) can't see it.
It was interesting to see a different, deeper aspect of Morwenna's marriage to Osbourne Whitworth, on the side of the indomitable manipulation of George, Elizabeth, and even her mother, Mrs. Chynoweth. Yikes, what a bad mother. But what makes Graham's characters so interesting is that, in this case especially, despite their flaws, you understand them—even when you don't want to side with them, you can't help but see the situation from their eyes.
One of the most satisfying experiences I think I've ever had reading a book this year was hands-down that gripping, explosive exchange between Aunt Agatha and George at the end of the book. Wew, what a scene. I didn't expect it would actually be in the book, as watching the scene in the series seemed almost too good to imagine I'd get to read about it, too. And Agatha's dramatic revelation of Valentine's parentage!!! Ahhh! For the first time, we realize that we, the readers, aren't the only ones questioning it. Such a shock to hear it spoken of so directly to the one person you should never, ever say it to.
Ah. What a scene.
And so concludes Book 5: The Black Moon! I have to say, this one might just be my favorite Poldark yet. Which I happen to have said about the last one...and the one before that. What can I say, this saga just gets better and better.
I'll plan to drop these Poldark Perusals monthly, so be on the lookout for the next update: Book Six, The Four Swans. Hugh Armitage, here we come! 😏
Until next time,