The Rules of Engagement

The Rules of Engagement

by Anita Brookner
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The Rules of Engagement by Anita Brookner

Elizabeth and Betsy had been school friends in 1950s London. Elizabeth, prudent and introspective, values social propriety. Betsy, raised by a spinster aunt, is open, trusting, and desperate for affection. After growing up and going their separate ways, the two women reconnect later in life. Elizabeth has married kind but tedious Digby, while Betsy is still searching for love and belonging. In this deeply perceptive story, Anita Brookner brilliantly charts the resilience of a friendship tested by alienation and by jealousy over a man who seems to offer the promise of escape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400075300
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/08/2005
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 273
Sales rank: 1,108,180
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Anita Brookner was born in London and, apart from several years spent in Paris, has lived there ever since. She trained as an art historian and taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art until 1988. The Rules of Engagement is her twenty-second novel.

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Rules of Engagement: A Novel 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about thought processes. The main character, Elizabeth is an admittedly unsympathetic character. She often disappoints herself with her reactions and reponses throughout the book. An Englishwoman in her mid-fifties, she spends most of the 273 pages revealing her innermost and often unattractive and negative thoughts about her childhood friend, her husband and her lovers. None of her relationships are satisfactory. Although she is well-educated and would seem to have opportunities for engagement in many facets of life, her introspectiveness as well as the strangeness of her developmental years, have caused a sense of stagnation and fatalism in her life which she regrets but is unable to get past. The character of Elizabeth is a study in the extremes of introspection and it's deleterious effects on a personality and for that matter, a book. I continued to read the book to the end in hopes of finding a surprise, pleasant or otherwise, but found none. On the up side, I added many great entries to my new word list. Brookner's vocabulary is enviable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 'The Rules of Engagement',Anita Brookner's latest book,the characters substitute discussion and introspection for action, resulting in a novel of manners rather than real life. Elizabeth and Betsy are schoolmates; one is wealthy and sheltered while the other is an orphan, raised by an unloving aunt, and in poor financial straits. Elizabeth makes a loveless marriage to Digby Wetherall, 27 years her senior, while Betsy, who comes into a small inheritance, lives a bohemian life in Paris with Daniel, a handsome, radical student. Once married, Elizabeth commences a love affair with Edmund, one of Digby's friends. ten years younger than her husband and attractive. Elizabeth pursues this relationship knowing it can lead nowhere, but she enjoys the release that passion brings to her life. She accepts that she can make no demands on her lover who has a wife and three children. Nor can she confide her feeling of love to him or her interest in literature. These are'the rules of engagement' the author cites in her title. Suddenly,Digby dies. At the funeral reception when Edmund meets Betsy whose Parisian lover has been killed in an accident, the two are smitten. But Betsy refuses to follow the rules of engagement. She lives only to see Edmund and pities her friend whom, she says, has never known love. In resolving this situation, Brookner draws on her knowledge of the classics. During her school days, Betsy had been an actress, starring in tragic heroine roles like Racine's 'Berenice'. The lines of unrequited love that Betsy recited as a student prefigure her own life as she lays dying. The pain she ignored during her affair with Edmund turns out to be incurable cancer. Elizabeth, who has relinquished Edmund when Betsy claimed him, now is the sole comforter of her girlhood friend and companion to her slow death. Edmund and his three children to whom Betsy gave unflinching devotion are absent. Brookner has written a novel of restrained passion. Whether or not it succeeds depends on the reader who must settle for extended chapters of Elizabeth's self-analysis and inner dialogue in place of plot. Change, when it comes, results from fate rather than from the intent of the characters who experience their feelings helplessly locked in a prison of non-communication and circumstance.