The Stranger from the Sea is the eighth novel in The Poldark series and it jumps forward in time to 1810 as the Poldark children start to come to the forefront. As well as Jeremy and Clowance, the Poldarks now have a younger daughter, Isabella Rose, who will begin to feature more in the later books.
Now nineteen, Jeremy has developed a fascination for engineering and is particularly interested in the newfangled steam engines being developed but his father doesn’t share his enthusiasm as they have proven to be dangerous. Undeterred, Jeremy continues to study in secret and begins to dream of a world where horses are replaced by machines driven by steam engines. Jeremy also realises the engines may prove invaluable in the mining industry and has the hard task of persuading his father of their value. For Ross, the gulf between him and his son couldn’t be any wider as Ross, unaware of Jeremy’s secret activities, fears his son has no direction in life.
Things change for Jeremy the day he rescues a stranger from the sea, hence the title, but as Jeremy and Stephen Carrington become friends, it soon becomes clear that Stephen isn’t being entirely honest about himself. Stephen’s arrival also proves significant to Jeremy’s sister, seventeen-year-old Clowance, who falls in love with the handsome stranger but she isn’t blind to his deception and keeps him at arm’s length. As Stephen continues to flit in and out of the Poldarks’ lives, he remains a mystery but you can’t escape the sense of foreboding that is prevalent especially when an old Cornish proverb is quoted about how a stranger rescued from the sea will become an enemy.
The Stranger from the Sea is pretty much a transitional novel as the adult versions of Jeremy and Clowance are introduced so they can take the Poldark family forward into a new century. Jeremy is a serious but intelligent young man who isn’t afraid to embrace the new age of the industrial revolution and his experimentation will likely prove to be vital to the continued prosperity of his family. It isn’t all about steam engines though as Jeremy gets caught up in Stephen Carrington’s less than legal activities and ends up falling in love with Cuby Trevanion. However, the Trevanion family waste no time in informing Jeremy that his pedigree is not good enough for Miss Cuby and he is encouraged to move on. A heartbroken Jeremy does just that, but I suspect it doesn’t end there.
As for Clowance, she is an intriguing mixture of her parents, which means she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Although she seems to have lost her heart to Stephen Carrington, Clowance is keeping her options open as she is pursued by Lord Edward Fitzmaurice and the penniless Ben Carter, son of the ill-fated Jim who was jailed for poaching. Like her parents before her, Clowance doesn’t seem bothered by social hierarchy and isn’t particularly dazzled by her aristocrat and his luxurious lifestyle. Clowance has yet to realise her childhood friend, Ben, has a romantic interest in her but Demelza is very aware of it and hopes her daughter will choose love over riches.
The most disturbing chain of events belong as ever to George Warleggan who suddenly surfaces from his self-imposed isolation when he catches sight of Clowance at Trenwith, an event which seems to awaken his lust as well as his zest for life. Afterwards, George pursues Lady Harriet Carter, and almost bankrupts himself trying to increase his fortune to impress her. We don’t see much of the Warleggan children, or indeed Geoffrey Charles Poldark, as he is still fighting the Peninsula War, but our introduction to Valentine is less than impressive. Although still very young, Valentine has already managed to get a girl in trouble and has amassed substantial debts from gambling so I’m not holding out much hope for his future.
Since a decade has passed, we have a lot of catching up to do with the other characters who graced the previous novels but none of them have a starring role this time around and we have to be content with a brief glimpse into their lives. Dwight and Caroline Enys seem to have finally put their troubles behind them and have two young daughters, while Drake and Morwenna are now part of Ross’s boating business. Demelza’s other brother, Sam, has taken over his brother’s blacksmith business and has also healed his broken heart by marrying Rosina Hoblyn, who you’ll remember was jilted by Drake.
While The Stranger from the Sea is nothing startling, it achieves it’s primary function of setting the scene for the last three novels in the series, bringing the younger generation to the forefront and establishing new characters to highlight how the world is changing. Unfortunately, for me, the best days of this series have long gone.