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.
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|Title of Religion eBook: The Rules of Engagement|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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The Rules of Engagement
Chapter OneWe met, and became friends of a sort, by virtue of the fact that we started school on the same day. Because we had the same Christian name it was decreed that she should choose an alternative. For some reason-largely, I think, because she was influenced by the sort of sunny children's books available in our milieu-she decided to be known as Betsy. When we met up again, several years later, she was Betsy de Saint-Jorre. Not bad for a girl initially registered as Elizabeth Newton.
How much nicer children were in those days than the adults they have become! Born in 1948, we were well-behaved, incurious, with none of the rebellious features adopted by those who make youthfulness a permanent quest. We went to tea in one another's houses, sent each other postcards when we went on holiday with our parents, assumed we would know each other all our lives ... The Sixties took us by surprise: we were unprepared, unready, uncomprehending. That, I now see, was why I married Digby: it was the right, unthinking thing to do. That was why Betsy took it upon herself to have a career, out of despair, perhaps, at not being provided for. Choice hardly dictated our actions. Yet I suppose we were contented enough. Certainly we knew no better. And now we know too much. Discretion veiled our motives then, and perhaps does so even now, even in an age of multiple communications, of e-mails, text messages, and news bulletins all round the clock. We still rely on narrative, on the considered account. That is how and why I knew Betsy's story, though I cannot claim to know all of it. There were areas of confusion which it seemed better not to disclose. But she was always...