The Rules Of Engagement
The planes of Brookner’s precisely built new novel are simple, like Shaker furniture: Two British girls, school friends born in mid-century, grow into women of very different temperaments. They make right and wrong choices about love and relationships, including an involvement, first by one and then the other, with the same married man. The width of the story is slender. But with her 22nd novel, the author of 1984’s Hotel du Lac writes with polished power by clarifying all she knows about the contained desires of everyday, unremarkable women and the consequences, sometimes dangerous, of unstoppering those feelings. Typically, she proceeds delicately, almost primly; typically, too, she calibrates gradations of passion meticulously.