Friday, October 28, 2016

Winston Graham's THE ANGRY TIDE

As I joked recently on Twitter, I can always tell when a new batch of episodes of Poldark hits American or British TV because all of a sudden the page views for all of my prior Poldark book reviews shoot back up into the stratosphere (well, for this blog). I still haven't seen any of the latest series that is just now airing on PBS in the States, so I can't speak to how it compares to the books yet, but I figured the least I could do was take a break from all the Doctor Who and Gene Wolfe and give the Poldarkies something new to look at here at Kate of Mind.

The Angry Tide, the seventh "Novel of Cornwall" in the Poldark saga, starts earning its title right away. As is always the case in these books, the state of the sea reflects the emotional state of the characters living near it, and there's plenty of tempestuous wave action and passionate melodrama in and around Nampara, where our hero and heroine, whose marriage took another near-fatal blow last novel, reside.

And   they're getting used to other changes as well, are Ross and Demelza; last novel saw Ross getting elected to replace adversary George Warleggan as a Member of Parliament, and so has to spend at least some of his time in London now. A bit awkward, that, because of course last novel also saw wife Demelza tempted strongly to have an adulterous affair, and everybody knows that the best way to patch things up after a conflict like that is to put a few hundred miles between husband and wife.

But this is Demelza, though a very subdued and somewhat uncertain Demelza, who has learned some lessons since back in the day when she meddled freely in other people's love lives. She got mostly good results, granted, but at the cost of more than a little pain and awkwardness, so she's not so eager to plunge into that again, except....

Except her poor brothers! Both of them are in love with girls who seem pretty much perfect for them, but Sam's girl is intimidated by the prospect of marrying such a very ardent Methodist when she herself has a bit of a jolly past, and Drake, Drake's beloved was way above his social station and was pretty much forced into a marriage within her class but to a truly odious garbage person.

The course of this marriage, between Morwenna Chynoweth (a cousin of Ross' first love, Elizabeth, who is herself now married to that troublesome George Warleggan but went into said marriage with open eyes and strength) and local vicar Ossie Whitworth, is a big topic in the first half of The Angry Tide, though for most of the first half it's the one plot that doesn't have a lot of ebb and flow to it. Morwenna is a "plain girl with a beautiful body" as her husband thinks of her, while Ossie is your standard puffy, self-righteous C of E man who is also more than a bit of a lecher, and starts trying to manipulate the local medical community into agreeing with him that if Morwenna doesn't want to sleep with him (and she really, really, really doesn't, especially after reluctantly having a son by him), it MUST mean she's insane and should be put away somewhere so that Ossie can get on with his proper churchman's life with the help of, say, a reasonably attractive "housekeeper" to attend to his "needs."

Pardon me while I go and shower now.

Seriously, if you don't hate Ossie already (assuming you've read these books or seen the 1970s era Poldark TV adaptation or something), I'm not sure we can be friends, you guys.

Fortunately, there's the second half of the book, largely concerned with Demelza's first visit to London, its causes and consequences. As I mentioned before, Demelza has changed over the course of these books; there is very little of the poor miner's scraggly, boyish daughter left in her. So her time in London is not merely spent gawping and wide-eyed as once she was intimidated by a house party among the local gentry in Cornwall. She's still not entirely sure exactly how to behave, but she's learned to trust her instincts, and actually makes fewer mistakes than Ross.

She also gets a chance to shine at home, when a banking crisis forces quick thinking and quicker action while Ross is away. We've always known that Demelza is quite intelligent, but here we see that she has become shrewd. It's truly wonderful to see, especially when she is contrasted with the Chynoweth women, who are born to higher stations but who never really develop beyond that. You're not going to see, at any rate, a Novel of Cornwall named after any of them; Demelza's name was on the very second book!

As for the rest of The Angry Tide, well, it's a Poldark novel. Lots more political/military issues come to the fore as we are now contemporaneous with Napoleon's capture of Alexandria and Cairo and with Admiral Horatio Nelson's famous defeat of Napoleon at the famous Battle of the Nile (where, of course, our beloved Captain Jack Aubrey of Patrick O'Brian fame got his medal). There's lots more stuff to make fans of Blackadder the Third smile as George Warleggan strives to acquire a "robber botton" of his very own, and the prose continues to a delight. Seriously, you guys, if all you're doing is watching the new TV adaptation (or the original one, in which the guy who occasionally cameos as Dr. Halsey in the new show played Poldark) (but mostly kept his shirt on, admittedly), you're missing out. These novels are absolutely delightful, and they only get more so as the story moves on beyond what's been covered in (to date) either TV adaptation. Most of them are now available as ebooks; I'm sure eventually all will be as the new TV show creates new fans.

Here's hoping!

For now, I'm almost into dead tree reading, which I have difficulty doing due to chronic hand/arm/shoulder problems, but I'M GOING TO SUCK IT UP when the time comes, because these books are worth it!

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