In Honor of Poldark’s Aunt Agatha

Unknown-1   Spoiler Alert:  If you have not yet seen the final episode of Poldark, the eighteenth century saga set in Cornwall, you probably want to stop reading now.

Despite the rugged terrain with wild rides along the sea and rivalries among the families, one steady character, reportedly about to celebrate her 100th birthday, challenges the evil doers and maintains her upright moral code despite the corruption around her.  Sadly, Aunt Agatha finally has her heart broken when the cold calculating George Warleggan cancels her birthday party.  Of course, the stalwart Aunt Agatha has her revenge before she takes her last breath.

In the Masterpiece Studio Podcast interview of Catherine Blakiston, the actress playing Aunt Agatha, she mentions she was gifted the tarot cards she often shuffled on scene as she predicted dire consequences for others, and the book Aunt Agatha continually read around the fire – Tristram Shandy.

Hepburn7_logLaurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, with its first of nine volumes published in 1759, begins with its hero about to be born and becomes so sidetracked by digressions that the story ends shortly after his birth, but not before introducing a vivid group of eccentric and farcical characters in a comic tour de force.  Tristram Shandy was a bestseller of its time and Sterne is recognized as one of the forerunners of psychological fiction.

I’ve never read it, so in honor of Aunt Agatha, I’ve downloaded the classic for free from Project Gutenberg – all 760 pages.

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PBS Inspired Books

Sunday night viewing is getting better on PBS – a reprieve from the long wait for the return of Downton Abbey.  And unlike the Maggie Smith driven saga created by Julian Fellowes for television, two PBS televised series follow real books, published and available: Poldark and Grantchester.

Poldark-umbrella-icon,-675x290-scale-2000x2000Poldark – the newest addition from the BBC for Masterpiece theater – is based on a series of twelve books by Winston Graham.  After reading Stephen Brunwell’s review – What Merits a Remake?   – with his promise of “a wealth of back stories missing from the televised versions,” I found the newly reissued books and plan to immerse myself in the Cornwall saga of a Revolutionary war hero who returns to find his land in disrepair, and his former love lost to another man.

Grantchester – sadly appearing only briefly on PBS, with the second series not Grantchester-675X290-scale-2000x2000available until 2016 – follows a series of books by James Runcie.  The handsome, erudite Canon Sydney Chambers is the clergyman/detective solving crimes with his sidekick, local police officer—Inspector Geordie Keating, in a small village near Cambridge in the 1960s.

The books are available through public libraries and in paperback.  If you want to follow the stories in order, Poldark begins with Ross Poldark (1945), followed by Demelza (1946).  To continue reading, find the list and a few free downloads at  NLS Minibibliographies.

The Grantchester Mysteries begin with Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, published in 2012.  Muncie has been churning out a book a year, with the latest, Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins (2015).

Comfortable and comforting – cozy with romance and mystery – just what I need right now.