Happy Friday! First order of business: congratulations to Bekah, the winner of the signed copy of Pink VII! Bekah, if you will email your address to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will get your prize in the mail ASAP. Over to Abby for our weekly recap!
The stakes are high as we begin chapter eight. The Nizam is holding a durbar, an event whose social nuances are as complex as the political ones as the various Indian officials are deciding whether they prefer English or French alliances. Alex and James Kirkpatrick are scheduled to present Freddy to the Nizam and can only hope that he behaves himself and neither of them gamble on having Penelope along for the evening.
These chapters introduce us to still more characters including Mir Alam, described as “rotten with old grudges and new leprosy,” the Nizam himself, about whom Alex has doubts, Mah Laqa Bai, who, “like everyone else was a very old friend of Alex’s father” and Nur Bai, with whom Freddy is quite taken. Penelope is delighted to see that the Zuffir Plutan, an all female guard troop, exist, under the determined leadership of Mama Champa, who handles palace protocol as first Freddy and then Penelope are introduced to the Nizam. While Penelope’s introduction to the Nizam could have been a disaster, she acquits herself well enough to survive the evening. And because this is a Pink Carnation book, there are also plots and spies underfoot, including 3200 missing guns, while Penelope accuses Alex of embezzlement from the British empire, a statement she soon regrets.
By chapter eleven, it’s breakfast time for Penelope and Freddy and the mail has been delivered. Freddy hears from Fiske, while Penelope has letters from her mother, the Dowager Duchess and Henrietta. Several of you have pointed out that Penelope sees the Uppingtons as being more like family than her own and this observation is reinforced as Henrietta’s letter is filled with love and news, while her mother is adamant only that Penelope meet Lady Clive. Still, a certain isolation lingers around Penelope in this chapter as she ponders both her own past actions and Charlotte’s and finally decides to go for a ride.
On meeting Alex, Penelope apologizes and the two head outside the Residency gates to a world where the sun seems brighter and the air smells richer. Penelope is fascinated by everything around her until Alex takes off after an unknown man and Penelope follows him. While Alex and Penelope’s exchanges are still guarded in these chapters, their mutual respect for each other is clearly beginning to emerge and as their morning rides continue, Penelope realizes that she has made a friend, a fact commented on by Daniel Cleave, who went to school with Alex and his brothers. However, our time in 1804 closes with Freddy’s lack of respect for Penelope as she realizes that he has begun an affair with Nur Bai.
These chapters also take us forward in time as Eloise and Serena go to see a movie and see Nick, the man to whom Serena is attracted, out with another woman. While trying to navigate this encounter, Eloise finds herself reflecting on the fact that while she often treats Serena “like a backward child,” the reality is that Serena is the one who knows their London world, not Eloise. Eloise’s and Serena’s careful efforts to establish and maintain a friendship independent of Colin introduce another variation on friendship to the ones I looked at earlier this week.
Penelope often stumbles in these chapters and it often seems that this is a fate she has prescribed for herself due to her own behavior. Eloise earlier described her as a free spirit to Mrs. Seldwick-Alderly who responds instead that she finds her “more of a troubled soul, acting out not so much because she wants to, but because others expect it of her.” What do you think of this characterization of Penelope? Do you agree with it? Why or why not? And what do we know at this point in time about Alex? And I am closing this installment with another link to the Two Nerdy History Girls blog, this time on paintings of India done by a German artist: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2015/02/georgian-india-finding-inspiration-in.html