From Polgreen to Poldark – developing characters

World Book Day (5 March) coincides with St Piran’s Day Cornwall and this Sunday’s UK TV premiere of the new Poldark series.

Book cover

Winston Graham’s 12 Poldark novels are among my favourite books and I was introduced to them because of the first TV series. The makers of the new series have been very keen to point out that this is not a remake of the original programme but a NEW adaptation of the Winston Graham novels and, from what I have seen of the previews, it looks like the story will stick much more to original plot.

I hate it when the Poldark novels and dramatisations are placed in the genre of Historical Romance because they are so much more than that. I liken the books to Patrick 0”Brien for the well-researched historical detail or Daphne Du Maurier for their description of the Cornish landscape.

Winston Graham based his hero Ross Poldark on a second war airline pilot he met once. He was interested in his seemingly restless character. The airman was returning from war in the same way that Ross starts the novel returning to civilian life after fighting in the American War of Independence. He was originally called Ross Polgreen but as the character developed, Graham felt that name seemed too “flowery” and Poldark better reflected his darker side.

Robin Poldark

The novels are based around Perranporth and St Agnes where Graham lived with his Cornish-born wife Jean. The character names Demelza and Warleggan come from place names nearby. The author said he borrowed many of the Demelza’s character traits from his own wife such as her common sense, judgement and courage. Demelza’s delight in small things such as the first snowdrops in spring or the sound of the Night Jar are also borrowed from his wife.

 

St Ives popular Cornish tourist spot

St Ives popular Cornish tourist spot

But the real star of the Poldark novels is the Cornish countryside and as someone who is trying to develop my creative writing skills, Winston’s prose when describing the dramatic and rugged landscape is something I love to read again and again. No doubt more tourists will be encouraged to see for themselves what Cornwall has to offer when this new series is aired.

 

 

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