The Miner & the Viscount

Written by Richard Hoskin
Review by Anne McNulty

The wild and beautiful landscape of the Cornish coast and countryside forms the backdrop for Hoskin’s long and engrossing novel set 18th-Century Cornwall, where the lives of two fictional Cornish families, the Penwardens and the Trenances, intertwine with the lives of two of the region’s most powerful and influential families, the Eliots and the Pitts (from whom sprang both William Pitt, the Elder and the Younger). “Real life was right here in Cornwall,” a character thinks early on in the story.

Hoskin excels at connecting his local events to great swaths of broader English history as social and technological upheavals strain the fabric of what had been an intensely traditional area. “I don’t need to meet a mine captain!” scoffs one of Hoskin’s well-drawn noble-born characters as the plot gains momentum, “Viscounts don’t mix with riffraff.”

As the Pitt family rises to national prominence, it becomes harder and harder for the old guard to maintain such separations, and since Hoskin portrays all of his characters, high-born and low-born (among the latter especially outspoken Addis Penwarden, the book’s standout figure), with very believable humanity, a whole period of history with which his readers may not be familiar comes intensely to life.

This is a deeply rewarding and fascinating book, fit to stand beside the great Cornish novels of Winston Graham and Daphne du Maurier. Recommended.