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The Rules of Engagement by Anita Brookner
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The Rules of Engagement (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Anita Brookner

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214None54,329 (3.25)3
Member:Soupdragon
Title:The Rules of Engagement
Authors:Anita Brookner
Info:Vintage Books USA (2005), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fiction, friendship, relationships, London, 2012 read

Work details

The Rules of Engagement: A Novel by Anita Brookner (2003)

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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 |
I consider Anita Brookner one of my favorite authors, but this book, "The Rules of Engagement," was something of a disappointment. I didn't connect with any of the characters in general, or with the narrating character, Elizabeth Wetherall, in particular; and often found myself skimming rather than reading. However, I did find the last third, or so, of the book more engaging and read with more interest - but not enough to recommend this mostly dour and humorless book, though. If you're contemplating dipping your toes in the waters of Anita Brookner's books, try "Fraud" or "Hotel du Lac" instead. ( )
  y2pk | Jun 24, 2011 |
I haven't read Brookner since reading her first few books as a teeenager. Not really sure why. Think she's probably more my thing now than then. Quiet and enjoyable. Will have to read some more.
  nocto | Dec 8, 2010 |
Anita Brookner is such an accomplished author; however, her books leave me feeling sad because the subject matter is usually lonely women leading introspective lives. This novel is no exception. Elizabeth is a quiet woman married to a respectable (dull) man when she embarks on an affair with a man who is also married and experienced in clandestine affairs. When Elizabeth's husband dies, she concludes her affair with Edmund, only to see her long-time friend, Betsy, begin her own affair with Edmund. Elizabeth's inner dialogue is fascinating as she watches Betsy give herself wholeheartedly to Edmund and his children. Anita Brookner is a master at evoking characterizations of women who live on the outside while wistfully hoping for fulfillment "on the inside." ( )
2 vote pdebolt | Sep 22, 2009 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:05 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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