Book recommendations if you love Poldark

Eleanor Tomlinson and Aiden Turner star as Demelza and Poldark. Photo: BBC

 

It's been five years since Poldark first galloped across the Cornish coastline and into our hearts in the BBC drama based on Winston Graham’s novels. We’ve rejoiced as he restored his family fortunes, cheered as he challenged the establishment, sighed as he got the girl, lost the girl and found another girl (without really getting over the first one) and shrugged at the Scything Association’s complaint that Aiden Turner was doing it wrong in that iconic scene, because he just looked so good doing it!


Now the final series is upon us, all we can do is echo the words of faithful servant Prudy and say: ‘t’int right, t’int fair, t’int proper’! Actually - that’s not all we can do. There’s plenty of great books that will allow you to linger a little longer in Poldark’s world of swashbuckling action, family melodrama, death, love and all the good stuff. Here are five of our favourites.

 

Gentleman Jack by Sally Wainwright, Anne Choma (2019)

Screenwriter Sally Wainwright recently adapted Anne Lister’s diaries for the BBC in the historical drama Gentleman Jack, the moniker given to her by locals alluding to her ‘masculine appearance’. Lister was born in Halifax in 1793 and led an extraordinary life which she chronicled largely in secret code. Similar to Poldark, Lister was determined to restore her family’s ancestral home. She also opened her own mine, travelled the world, dressed mostly in black and was a hit with the ladies. What more could you ask for? 

The Confessions of Fanny Langton by Sara Collins (2018)

Series five of Poldark will see our hero challenge the establishment once more as he looks to abolish the slave-trade alongside his old friend Ned Despard and his wife Kitty, who was formerly enslaved. In episode one, Kitty makes an impassioned speech to a gathering in a London tavern calling for freedom and equality - all themes which are echoed in Sara Collins’ debut, The Confessions of Franny Langton. In this gothic historic novel the protagonist is standing trial for murder and tells her story from her beginnings on a Jamaican plantation to her life as a servant in a grand London house. It is a haunting tale of love, freedom and the fight to be heard.   

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1722)

Steamier than all of Poldark's steamiest scenes put together, Moll Flanders is almost as shocking to read today as it would have been in 1722. Born in Newgate Prison, Flanders navigates a life of prostitution, crime and five marriages (plus countless children) on her way to considerable notoriety. A timeless work of satire, it’s also a rollicking adventure that’ll take you from the underworlds of 18th-century London to the distant lands of Virginia where Moll once again finds herself incarcerated at His Majesty’s pleasure. And you’ll be rooting for her all the way.

 

Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817)

Eight years have passed since Anne Elliot broke off her engagement from the man she loved under pressure from her family. Her feelings are reignited when he returns to her social circle, but Captain Wentworth has his eyes on someone else. You can easily imagine Poldark’s first love Elizabeth and the protagonist of Austen’s final novel talking into the early morning - probably over a gin or two - swapping tales of woe about waving their true love off to sea, breaking their engagements and living with regret. But will Anne get a second chance? You’ll have to read it to find out.

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1906)

You may wonder what a novel about upper-middle-class English mores set in 1880’s London has to do with Poldark’s swashbuckling adventures in Regency Cornwall, but stay with us. Galsworthy’s sweeping saga chronicles the fortunes and downfalls of the wealthy Forsyte family as they live through dramatic social change, from the straight-laced Victorian era to the roaring 20s. As with Winton’s Poldark series, you’ll follow successive generations as they grapple with marriage, births and deaths. By the end of the three-volume epic, you’ll feel part of the family.

Related articles