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The Rules of Engagement by Anita Brookner

The Rules of Engagement (2003)

by Anita Brookner

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266964,812 (3.2)6



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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A highly introspective novel wherein the narrator guards her privacy precluding any intimacy. Her approach is contrasted with her childhood friend's open neediness. Neither fare well in adulthood. ( )
  snash | Nov 15, 2018 |
Strange sad novel about 2 women's lives, affairs — etc. No Substance Here

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.
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  christinejoseph | Jul 27, 2016 |
This book has been on my shelf for years. Recently I made an intentional TBR stack choosing mostly those that have been on my shelf for three or more years. I seemed to be in the habit of reading my most recent acquisitions. But I digress . . .

The best way to describe this book is that it seemed the epitome of the English in all their demeanor, mannerisms, and utmost restraint. It is the story of two women named Elizabeth one of which narrates to us, while the other she refers to as her friend Betsy. They meet at school when they are young and remain lifelong friends. When in their 30's Betsy has met her love in Paris while Elizabeth meets the older Digby and settles into a mediocre but safe life and must live with the effect of it's outcome.

While there is really no plot to this story it is not a light read by any means. The true gem of this book is the remarkable writing itself and how perfectly the author describes Elizabeth's every reasoning behind her every thought and action as if we are truly in her head. The intimacy we gain with this character is amazing. Ms. Brookner's tone is rather somber yet soothing to read. I will be reading more by this author and I would recommend this only to those who truly appreciate the written word.

How I acquired this book: Barnes & Noble clearance shelf

Shelf life: Approximately 5 years. ( )
  missjomarch | Mar 13, 2016 |
oh jill...I trusted you! ( )
  pam.enser | Apr 1, 2013 |
This, her 22nd novel published in 2003, is typical Brookner with all her trademark features. The story is about two women who meet at school but stay in touch throughout their lives. Two girls, both called Elizabeth meet at school. They’re both only children, Elizabeth’s parents divorced, Betsy’s died and she then lived with her aunt. Betsy is the pretty one, and when they both spend some time in Paris, it’s Betsy that falls passionately in love; Elizabeth uses her time there coming to terms with being on her own.

Later back in England, Elizabeth marries Digby, a widower many years her senior. Theirs is a comfortable marriage – no surprises, no passion, no children either. Elizabeth is happy with this, but then she embarks on an affair with one of Digby’s friends – this relationship is one of convenience, physical needs are satisfied, but Elizabeth gradually begins to fall for Edmund. Then Betsy comes back into her life, and things are gradually turned upside down – and Betsy’s life will continue to impact on her oldest friend’s for years to come.

If you didn’t know the book I was describing was by Brookner, from the description above, you might guess it was by Joanna Trollope say with some complicated entanglements amongst the middle classes. But it’s not. Through the voice of Elizabeth, Brookner tells the story of an ordinary woman disappointed with life and love, ultimately content with her own company, but somehow deep down wishing she’d had the wide-eyed innocence of her friend to take her down another path. Elizabeth meditates at length on her life, relationships and friendships, decisions taken, and things not done to keep life unruffled.

This is where I had a problem with this book. In reality nothing much does happen – at least not to Elizabeth. It all happens to Betsy, but Elizabeth is telling the story, so we don’t know the half of it. Instead, we’re subjected to Elizabeth’s introspection about life, the universe and everything. Characters’ actions were described in intricate detail in this book, however I felt I never really got under Elizabeth’s skin, despite having over 250 pages to get to know her. I wish I’d been able to write more enthusiastically about this novel, for I have enjoyed the others I have read, but I feel that The Rules of Engagement is one for Brookner completists, first time readers should probably start elsewhere. ( )
2 vote gaskella | Jul 19, 2011 |
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We met, and became friends of a sort, by virtue of the fact that we started school on the same day.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141014121, Paperback)

'I have come to believe that there can be no adequate preparation for the sadness that comes at the end, the sheer regret that one's life is finished, that one's failures remain indelible and one's successes illusory.' Elizabeth and Betsy are old school friends. Born in 1948 and unready for the sixties, they had high hopes of the lives they would lead, even though their circumstances were so different. When they meet again in their thirties, Elizabeth, married to the safe, older Digby is relieving the boredom of a cosy but childless marriage with an affair. Betsy seems to have found real romance in Paris. Are their lives taking off, or are they just making more of the wrong choices without even realising it?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Encountering each other later in life, Elizabeth and Betsy, two women who had known each other since childhood, reflect on the decisions and the men who have shaped their destinies.

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