The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham – 20 Books of Summer 2021

 The Grove of Eagles cover

The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham was first published in 1963 and the setting is mainly Cornwall although at times the action moves to Spain and London.

The story is told by Maugan Killigrew who has grown up at Arwenack House in Cornwall. Maugan is his father’s eldest son but he is a base son – illegitimate – but as his mother is dead he has been brought up in his father’s household. It’s a busy one as his gentle step-mother seems to be forever pregnant. Maugan’s father is a philanderer and up to his ears in debt despite having an important situation as commander of a castle at the mouth of the River Fal.

Maugan’s ambition is to go to sea and make something of himself, as it’s the 1590s and Sir Walter Raleigh visits his father from time to time Maugan hopes that Raleigh will take him on in some capacity and he can make his fortune at sea. With the second Spanish Armada attacking the Cornish coast in 1597 things don’t quite go to plan for Maugan.

This was a good read, marred only slightly for me by what seemed like quite long sections of sea battles. As ever I’m more interested in the domestic side of history, and of course there’s a romance involved.

Some of the characters were based on actual people who lived in Cornwall at that time, and as you would expect from Winston Graham it’s all very authentic and atmospheric. It’s a fairly long read at 576 pages.

This book was one of my 20 Books of Summer.

The Guardian Review

I’ve been so busy over the weekend and yesterday that it wasn’t until this morning that I had time to sit down and read Saturday’s Guardian review. I thought I would share a few of my favourite articles, just in case you haven’t seen them.

Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story of Women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson was reviewed by Tessa Hadley here.

Top turrets. Gothic or fairytale castles are everywhere in fiction. Jessamy Taylor chooses 10 favourite fortresses. You can read it here. My favourite real Castle is Stirling Castle but I’ll have to think about fictional ones.

There’s a new exhibition on at the V&A of Alexander McQueen’s designs. You can read about it here. I’d love to go to London to visit several exhibitions but the thought of actually staying in London is more than I can contemplate, oh for that beam me back to my own bed at night gadget!

And finally, Poldark by Patrick Gale which you can read here.

I managed to watch Poldark yesterday on the iplayer. I’m one who loved the original series and then adored the books and I wasn’t impressed with the new choice of actor to play the part of Ross Poldark, nor did I think that the choice of the new Demelza was up to much, for one thing she’s far too tall, just not waif-like as she should be. I’m usually a big fan of Phil Davis of (shake me up Judy fame) but for me he doesn’t cut it as Judd, he and Prudie are far too clean looking, you could just about smell the original Judd through the TV, and the Phil Davis grumbling isn’t a patch on the original. I also don’t think they’re being historically accurate as a lot of folding paper money was being waved about, but I’m sure that the story begins before paper money was introduced, Winston Graham made a point of writing about that in one of the books.

I’ll continue to watch it though, because I love Cornwall, but I’m not even sure about that, I don’t think that all of the filming was done in Cornwall, which is a shame as the buildings there are so like Scottish buildings, grey and solid stone. Buildings in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire are just not going to look right. I’ve no doubt though that there’ll be a whole new generation of fans, many of whom will name their first son Ross – just as before.

Angharad Rees and Poldark

Jack got to the Guardian before I did this morning – as usual – and when he reached the obituary page he said, Angharad Rees has died. I was/am really sad about that, I thought she was a great actress who never seemed to get the fame which she should have. It’s as the red-haired, fiery Demelza in Poldark which most of us will remember her. You can read her obituary here.

The BBC aired the Poldark series in 1975-77 and it was wildly popular. Set in Cornwall (I’d watch anything set there I think) just after the American War of Independence. Poldark was based on the books by Winston Graham, who had been a history teacher before taking to writing, he was a rattling good storyteller and as a bonus, his books are factually accurate too.

I first read the novels years ago and re-read them all not all that long ago, they were still real page-turners so if you haven’t read them you might want to try them out. I know that Evee loved the books too as she has mentioned in the past how she raced through them while she was going through a terrible time in hospital. Did you watch the TV programme too Evee? Half the female population seemed to fancy Robin Ellis (Ross) while the other half were all for George Warleggan (Ralph Bates).

Poor Angharad, she was 63 but she’ll always be Demelza to me. What’s going on up there? Yesterday it was the actor Simon Ward who popped off. Who’s the third one going to be?