A Word In Your Ear: Winston's War; Ross Poldark

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Michael Dobbs's Winston's War (HarperCollins, 6 hrs 30 mins, £12.99) is a novelisation of the political shenanigans that lay behind Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister in 1940. The plot hinges on the little-known fact that the elderly Churchill and the twenty-something Soviet spy Guy Burgess met at least once before the war began. I don't know enough about the history of the period to judge exactly how accurate, or how plausible, Dobbs's scenario is, but it makes compelling listening. Tim Pigott-Smith excels in projecting the characters of Neville Chamberlain, Joseph Kennedy, Leo Amery and, of course, Churchill himself.

Winston Graham's hugely popular historical saga of the Cornish mining family of Poldark is now released in abridged form, read by Michael Maloney, who has one of most seductive voices in audio. Ross Poldark (Macmillan, 4 hrs 30 mins, £11.99) opens with the return of Ross, the heir, from fighting against American revolutionaries. He finds his father dead, his girl about to marry his cousin, and his house and lands wasted. Rebulding chaos is always an attractive theme, and Graham is a master of the art of creating characters both romantic and villainous. But the Poldark series is about much more than family tangles and an unlikely romance. It gives a tellingly accurate portrait of Cornish life and the effect on it of both revolutionary political ideas and new industrial technology.

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