Troubled Blood: Chapters One and Two

The promised questions offered to spur new readers into conversations at @RGalbraith’s twitter feed turned out to be as bland and spoiler free as I thought they might be. As I pledged yesterday, I tweet-posted links to my reflections that were written on publication of Troubled Blood about its first fourteen chapters, Parts 1 and 2 of 7, in that @RGalbraith tweet thread and tweeted @HogwartsProf two challenges, one for each of the first two chapters. I’ll try to do the same all this coming week to finish fourteen before the next @Rgalbraith questions appear next Saturday. My answers to the first two tweeted question-challenges, offered for your reflection, comment, and correction, are posted below. Enjoy!

Here are my top seven. Feel free to contradict (“That’s not an echo!”) or offer your own.

  1. The first that comes to mind is the Valentine’s Day drink with Nick Herbert in the story center that provides the alcohol-fuel that powers the Dinner Party from Hell confrontation with Robin. We don’t actually see the conversation, but Strike is drinking with a friend at a pub on a birthday, though it was a miscarriage, and the friend is revealed as something of a misogynist.
  2. The second of course is in the story-latch in the last chapter on Robin’s birthday when they head off to the Ritz to enjoy the champagne buffet. They discuss Polworth and his planned trip to London, but, more important, Strike’s last thoughts are quotations of Polworth’s Parthia shot as he exited The Victory in chapter one about the lesson to be drawn from Anna Karenina.
  3. Next is Strike’s birthday drink with Robin in Part 3, chapter 19. Cormoran is grumpy because he has received a birthday card from his estranged father and feeling guilty because he forgot Robin’s birthday (she is especially thoughtful in remembering his). There is an 80th birthday party inside the pub where they have their drinks (they are outside) and Strike is confronted with the thought of who will be with him on his 80th birthday, a pointed echo of Polworth’s logic about marriage in chapter 1.
  4. Part 4, chapter 44, is our fourth echo, when Strike and nephew Jack have a drink with Polworth in The Victory in the central part of the seven part novel. They cover again the ground of Cornish nationalism and the backdrop is still Aunt Joan’s cancer. The birthday here, sadly, is Joan’s birth into the next world; the nigredo center-echo of the opening closes with her last words to Cormoran from her death bed.
  5. Ready for a bit of a stretch? Strike meets with the archetypal misogynist (and Hermes figure) Carl Oakden in The American Bar on the fiftieth anniversary or birthday of Jonny Rokeby’s band, The Deadbeats. As with the Nick Herbert drinking, the real party is held off-stage and yet precipitates a violent and ultimately rewarding confrontation between Cormoran and Robin.
  6. The next lacks for a true birthday connection but there are plenty of chapter 1 echoes. In chapter 66, Strike and Robin have fish and chips (and a drink) after their meeting with the DiamonDouthwaites in Skegness. Incredibly, Cormoran, inspired by the sea and the spirit of Joan Nancarrow, sings ‘Trelawney,’ The Song of the Western Men,’ a celebration of the Cornishmen identity he had denied having to Polworth in chapter 1. He also thinks of buying Robin a cute gift, a first for him, a marker that he is finally grasping Polworth’s message (and Joan’s plea) that he needs to strap the woman to his back if he is to ever have his hands free.
  7. The seventh birthday drink is on the only birthday universally commemorated on the Western calendar, the Nativity of Christ or Christmas. Strike is not drinking that night as he is having his Near Death Experience courtesy of the Poisoner Granny’s chocolates in his rooms above the office. Robin, however, has her nadir moment of the books when Saul Morris, Sol Niger of the series nigredo, gifts her a ‘dick-pic’ after their virtual day together drinking. Talk about a Pole-worth echo and virulent misogyny fueled by alcohol…

The Eros/Anteros theme of the series that began with Robin’s engagement in Piccadilly Square in the opening of Cuckoo and Strike’s cupid-esque rescue of her from her fall down the stairs as Venus exits is highlighted in almost all these birthday encounters in Troubled Blood, to which chapter 1 is a brilliant opening note. Be sure to pay close attention to the opening of Ink Black Heart for clues to its central themes and scenes!

The first two chapters echo in reverse order the last two chapters, all of Part 7, in that, as noted above, the last chapter references Polworth’s advice to Strike about his need to attach himself to Robin. Strike’s last thoughts as he exits the upscale department store on Robin’s birthday for a drink at the Ritz is of the Anna Karenina paragraph and characters recited by Polworth in chapter 1.

Chapter 2 is Strike’s first meeting with Kim Sullivan and Anna Phipps in which the distraught Phipps, playing the part of Una to Cormoran’s Redcrosse Knight, asks for his help in finding her mother (“My parents are in a castle, prisoners of a dragon!”). The penultimate chapter is Strike’s last meeting with Sullivan and Phipps at their London place in which all the story pieces not revealed in the confrontations with Creed and Beatty are laid out.

The first two chapters foreshadow the Valentine’s Day middle first in their Eros/Anteros theme discussed above. Valentine’s Day is the day devoted to the god of love, the erotic Cupid, and Rowling-Galbraith in the opening and center is making a distinction a la Spenser in Faerie Queen between this romantic and sexual bond and the selfish and sacrificial love of the Logos, the Anteros of the statue in Piccadilly Square so often misunderstood as Eros.

If you want to learn more about the Cupid and Psyche backdrop of Troubled Blood, check out A Mythological Key to Cormoran Strike? The Myth of Eros, Psyche, and Venus and Troubled Blood: Robin’s Two Perfumes The Meaning of Philosychos and Narciso

Let me know what you think of these tweets and my answers! Tomorrow, chapters three and four — see you then!

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