Friendship in The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

This post was written by Abby.

red lily

Last month, both Betty and Susan wrote about friendships in Night Jasmine and I wanted to focus today on friendships in Blood Lily. One point that both Betty and Susan made was that the friendship between Penelope and Charlotte is often an unexpected one and Blood Lily continues the theme of the unlikely friendship.

Chapter Six introduced us to Alex’s friend, Tajalli Ali Khan, the son of a Hyderabadi nobleman. Alex observes that “yet they were friends, and had been friends since the first month of Alex’s appointment in Hyderabad, when they had found themselves flung together on a cheetah hunt hosted by the Resident. Alex admired his friend’s insouciant ease of manner, even while he knew he could never emulate it.” What do you think allows for the harmony (Alex’s word) between these two characters? Do you think their friendship will survive the growing English, French and Indian tensions of the early nineteenth century? And do you have any friends like this?

But the most important friendship in Blood Lily is, of course, the one that begins to emerge between Penelope and Alex during these early chapters. Jumping ahead a little to Chapter Fourteen (which we will be discussing on Friday), Penelope reflects that “she had never had a male friend before. Lovers, yes. Flirtations. But never a friend. It made an intriguing change.” I hadn’t ever thought about this before rereading Blood Lily for our discussion but if romance between the hero and heroine is a core element in all the Pink Carnation books, so is friendship. Miles and Henrietta are probably the only couple who go from a pre-existing friendship to marriage but the friendships which develop between all the Pink couples play important roles in their books. Turnip appreciates the fact that Arabella responds to his banter while Geoff and Letty come to value each other’s companionship, just to name two examples.

Returning to Penelope and Alex, why do you think Penelope has never seen men as potential sources for friendship before? And why do you think she might find the idea intriguing? By contrast, the conversation between Alex and Mah Laqa Bai in Chapter Ten (again, my apologies for looking ahead to Friday’s discussion) and his relationships with his sisters suggest that Alex is far more acquainted with the concept of having women as friends. Why do you think this is the case? And is there any other friendship in the Pink books which I have missed here?

One thought on “Friendship in The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

  1. Hi Abby,
    I have enjoyed reflecting on these points. I am not sure why Penelope never had male friends unless it is the fact that girls were raised with the idea that they needed ‘to catch’ a husband during their expensive ‘seasons’. Perhaps for Penelope, this translated to flirtation rather than friendship. Ii seems like she is the oldest in her family (I think it mentioned younger brothers), so she hasn’t seen male friendship from that standpoint. In contrast, Henrietta grew up around Richard’s friends, so she was used to experiencing male friendship, even with her older brother including her, allowing her to tag along, and looking after her. Although Penelope was exposed to this at the Uppington home through her friendship with Henrietta, she never really bought into it. She is quoted in Blood Lily as seeing Miles as a ‘galumping oaf’, and couldn’t understand Henrietta’s attraction. Now that she is on her own in a foreign country with a despicable husband, she is finding out about male friendship with Alex – of course it quickly turns to attraction. In additon to the other couples you mentioned, I think Robert and Charlotte’s relationship started as friendship since she was so young, and Robert kept her company. In a way, I also think Mary and Vaughn ended up with a friendship, one in which they each understood the other’s actions and motives.

    Regarding Alex’s relationship with Tajalli and Mah Laqa Bai, I think this comes from his father’s influence and living so many years in India. He understands the culture and has three siblings that are half Indian. He sees the treatment of half-casts and feels it isn’t fair. Alex does not possess the English/British arrogance of the time. Although he understands a hierarchy or chain of command as experienced in the military, also a similar situation among the Indian culture, he is able to empathize with other human beings regardless of their station in life. Penelope will learn a lot from Alex!

    Also wanted to remark that Alex’s interaction and caring for the Indians reminds me of T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, and the relationship he developed with the Arabs.

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