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The Rules of Engagement
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The Rules of Engagement

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  465 ratings  ·  55 reviews
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 l ...more
Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Published (first published December 30th 2003)
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I'd like to give Ms. Brookner, whose rather expansive body of work has heretofore flown under my radar, the benefit of the doubt. I'm hoping that my first encounter with her work ("The Rules of Engagement", her 22nd novel) was a flukey bad choice, and that everything else she's written is deserving of the accolades heaped upon her. From my limited perspective, however, I'm not terribly optimistic that this pseudo-19th century poseur of a novel isn't indeed representative of the whole. After re ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carmen Lau
I've only read one other novel by Anita Brookner -- Leaving Home, years ago -- and I remember being horrified by how perceptive she is regarding solitary female lives. It was as if someone had opened me up and taken stock, coldly. The Rules of Engagement is not so different from Leaving Home, and from reading other reviews I suspect that most of her other novels are similar. I don't see that as a bad thing, necessarily, because I found both novels enjoyable.

From what I can tell, Brookner's great
Christopher Roth
Well, all Anita Brookner is good. But this one ended on a particularly depressing note. It wouldn't do to read two Anita Brookners in a row.
Brookners' books always stretch my vocabulary and French, and I feel like I've accomplished something when I finish one. I wish Elizabeth in this story wouldn't have been so rigid, for example, she could foresee her marriage to both Digby (what a name!) and Nils, but she herself could have changed them and not be so passive. Ditto for doing nothing but walking and reading once she was a widow at a young age (maybe before 35?) with not volunteering, learning any new hobbies, etc. Near the end the ...more
Brookner, Anita. THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. (2003). ****. Brookner is a meticulous writer. This was her twenty-second novel and continues her quest into the minds of women and the faces they present to the outside world. She was also the author of “Hotel du Lac,” the winner of the Booker prize. I don’t know how to describe this book. There is very little action, and not much of a plot, but she manages to suck you into the minds of her two principals: Elizabeth and Betsy. These two girls met at sch ...more
Cass Blakeman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It was only about 3 years ago I think, that I started to read Anita Brookner, and she is now quietly becoming a firm favourite. This is the 7th of her novels I have read.
There is a touch of the melancholic about her writing, but I don't find her depressing at all. The themes of this novel are very similar to that of the others I have read, that of lonliness, grief, and the choices women make in their lives. Elizabeth married a man many years older than herself, while her childhood friend Betsy
Two female friends who both lead unsatisfactory lives in their own way. While individual sentences were neat, the writing still seemed sloppily redundant in that many of the sentences were repetitive - we'd wander off ruminating a point for a while, and then we'd start off ruminating the point again, in words very little different. One of the purposes of the novel is to capture a generation and kind of women Brookner feels were born too late to live the lives they would have been expected to liv ...more
I’m torn about this one. On the one hand, it takes place partially in Toronto, and has these loving descriptions of the city, of places I’ve been. A large chunk of the time in Toronto is spent in the neighbourhood I’ve lived in most of my life, and it’s just…it’s wonderful to read that. The character has a fascinating career, and it’s explored extremely well, tying into the entire theme of the novel, and yet…I was a little unsatisfied.

There were points in the novel where other characters were ca
Dense thick prose, almost impenetrable, re-read many pages to absorb meaning.

A slender plot of friendship and false social pretentions and loneliness.

A quote on her difficulty in socializing:

"If I were to exhibit an unseemly solitariness I should fail a number of tests and be condemned to perpetual marginality."
Jan 06, 2012 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Betsy and Elizabeth has knew each other since childhood, and have been school year children. They have shared a very close relationship and share similarities about life, affection and trials. Losing contact with one another has been very hard for both of them,but eventually they reconnect and find their life not as how they have imagined. Elizabeth is married to Digby a much elderly man that she is not as affectionate with, but she loves his company. On the other hand, Betsy is married to a man ...more
I am afraid this did not meet my expectations having read several other books by AB and very much enjoyed them. I could not engage with Elizabeth. Indeed from the reviews I am not the only one who wanted to give her a good shake.
frustrating and more than a little depressing - getting bit weary of the 'middle aged spinster with unhealthy relationship with another woman' (see also the woman upstairs/notes on a scandal). Seeking a different narrative....
Boy, what a depressing end! As someone said on goodreads, Loneliness prevails.
I enjoyed the book a lot at first, probably because from the synopsis I was expecting a chick-littish or romancey book, so it turned out more than what I had expected. And I could relate so much to the teller's loneliness.
But then the heroin started to annoy me a wee bit, that apparent lack of passion and her patronising view of Betsy were getting on my nerves. I had to keep telling myself it was just her upbringing.
Started well, and there are certainly passages of writing to be admired in her prose...but could not bring myself to finish this novel. Listening to the protagonist whine about her unsatisfactory, unfulfilling life in comparison to her childhood (and apparently now only) friend started to take its toll. Sorry to say I abandoned this book just short of halfway. Zadie Smith's novel 'On Beauty' was waiting patiently on the night stand and I think I definitely made the right choice to pick up that b ...more
Hemmie Martin
This story follows the interwoven lives of two women from their early years until middle-age. The author describes the characters in great depth so that as the reader, we feel we know them in intimate detail.
However, there is a melancholy air that runs through this book, which doesn't lend itself to being a 'light' read. But the author's beautiful use of literary language and vocabulary took my breath away at times.
This wasn't perhaps my favourite novel by this author, but she's definitely an au
Another Brookner read for IABD at The story centers on two childhood friends who connect and reconnect through the years, leading sort of parallel lives. The book covered what I am finding are typical Brookner themes: loneliness, adultery, and sad childhoods. Like with Falling Slowly I found reading this book to be tedious; like listening to a friend ruminate about a bad break up over and over again till you just want to slap her and tell her to get a life.
A well written book about loneliness, grief and a woman living a life she wasn't sure she wanted....wanted to shake her though!! Enjoyed it for the setting, as it's my neighbourhood in London, but the character I found very depressing at times. If she were my own friend, I would say to her, "you think too much!" but I suppose it is a novel and that's kind of the whole point, a big interior monologue. This is the first Anita Brookner I've read, and I'd like to read more.
Phyllis Leigh
Astute, perceptive. I reel in amazement at her ability to recognise and describe the emotions and the motivations of her characters. Particularly when I recognise these in myself. An astonishing appreciation of human nature and behaviour. Read through it pretty rapidly to find out what was going to happen. Now I need to go back and read it slowly and take time to enjoy the beauty of the writing.
Karen Garverich
Great read about two women and their friendship from youth to middle age. A must read for
women in their 50's and up. It travels through the changes in their friendship caused by choices they made in their life. the aging process plus more but ever so beautifully written establishes the loyalty we have for our true women friends.
Highly recommend for women
This was unfortunately a DNF for me. I found that however many times I started it, I just couldn't make myself read past page 50. Something brighter and more interesting always appeared on my horizon and I was not willing to put in the effort to force my way through this book when I could be reading something I enjoy.
This book has been a real struggle, but I always finish whar I start reading. There was so little happening and so much dismal meandering chat that didn't seem to go anywhere. I know that Anita Brookner's books are never action packed, but tis one didn't seem to have much point to it at all.
Ms. Brookner has truely got the gift of narrative. What wonderful observations her characters make. And what wonderful self examination and reflection she offers us. This about 2 friends and the development and changes in their relationship over the years.
Jane Anne
When my mother was dying, I was reading an Ian Rankin Scottish mystery, but laid that aside and ran to the library for a Brookner! Knowing that whatever it was, it would fit the mood of respectful contemplation. This was not a fave at all, but served the purpose.
Brookner voice and language is articulate as a surgeon's or a concert pianist's hand, and all other bumbling writers have the clumsy soft barely formed fingers of a small child.

Themes of friendship, life choices, women who live essentially solitary lives.
Andrea Jackson
This was one of those self-absorbed, nothing going on, making the same stupid mistakes over and over again, books. I tried to finish it but couldn't. I couldn't sympathize with the heroine/narrator at all because she seemed so weak and selfish.
Ruminations on a life most ordinary is at points riveting, but generally laborious. I wanted to like it more than I actually did. Perhaps I gained some insight into the world my mom grew up in, but even she had purpose Elizabeth does not.
How much does a childhood friend mean to you? In this novel you will read about two friends separated, and then reunited later as adults. Their friendship endures much and gives much. This is a deeply perceptive look into resilience of women.
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Anita Brookner published her first novel, "A Start In Life" in 1981. Her most notable novel, her fourth, "Hotel du Lac" won the Man Booker Prize in 1984. Her novel, "The Next Big Thing" was longlisted (alongside John Banville's, "Shroud") in 2002 for the Man Booker Prize. She has published over 25 works of fiction, notably: "Strangers" (2009)shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, "Fr ...more
More about Anita Brookner...
Hotel du Lac Look at Me Leaving Home Strangers Altered States

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