The Black Moon is Winston Graham’s fifth novel in his Poldark series. He wrote the first four books at a younger time of his life and decades later when he was older he resumed the Poldark series and completed it with a total of 13 books. I adored the first four books of the series, so much so that I gave up watching the BBC adaptation because it fell short of my expectations and so much shorter than the books.
I prefer the original Poldark, which is a nuanced character but still very reliable as to his reactions. The BBC Poldark, I found, was altogether too extravagant and emotionally unreliable, not at all like the more guarded and passionately committed Poldark of the books.
Having said all of this, I was reticent to continue with the Poldark series after having finished the first four books. I had this fear that Winston Graham would not be able to do his characters justice because of having continued the series at a later point in his life. This was an unfair assumption on my part, I should have never doubted the artist, who was after all the creator of these characters.
One of the things that breaks my heart about Poldark–and it’s not such an obvious thing in the narrative–is how his station changes throughout the books. He’s a gentleman and a true aristocrat, really, in the first book, and to say that he declines due to the plays of fate and as a result of his own choices throughout the rest of the books is too much of a harsh statement, but perhaps not so far from the truth.
Not because of Demelza, his wife of low birth but of a giving, loving and noble heart. No, not because of her. Demezla is Poldark’s salvation in many ways. But because of himself. We see this throughout the first four books, how Poldark makes a bad decision after another, and how his obsession for Elizabeth, his first love, never dies and serves only to bring him further sorrow. Instead of building himself as a nobleman, it seems he’s fighting the whole world, and this is Poldark’s main flaw. He is so well educated and has such an outstanding character, yet time and again he makes rash, impulsive decisions which only serve to belittle him in the long run.
THE BLACK MOON, thankfully, does not continue this trend. Here we see a revived Poldark, an older and perhaps wiser Poldark in many ways, though he still continues making risky decisions (but this time, they only bring about happiness and good for others, thank goodness). His pesky love for Elizabeth is subdued, but I’m afraid it’ll come to life once again in the next book (I am certainly not looking forward to that). A calmer Poldark, and also, too, a wiser and older, more knowledgeable Demelza. It’s a treat to see them grow together and to witness their interactions and their marriage, which are my favorite parts of the books.
I am looking forward to continuing this series. If, perhaps THE BLACK MOON does not live up to the passionate and relentless nature of the first four Poldark books, it is a treat nonetheless in the sense that it gives the reader a chance to breathe and to inhabit this world, this english Cornwall, and even grow more attached to it than we first were. I will decidedly continue the series and look forward, if not to the heartbreak that the coming books will deliver, to the reaction of the characters to what happens.
Poldark is all about the actions and reactions of characters and the consequences this has on their lives, for ill mostly, throughout the rest of the series. So it is heartbreaking, but also redeeming, because of the open-heartedness and nobility that some characters choose to exhibit throughout these circumstances (namely Demelza, the jewel of the story, but also Poldark in no small measure thanks to her influence). I am eager to see this story through.