Thursday 31 May 2018
The Rules of Engagement: I did not call the doctor
You can come across the most shocking things in Brookner. A third of the way through The Rules of Engagement the narrator's heavy but inoffensive husband dies: the experienced Brookner reader probably suspected Digby's time would soon be up. But the manner of his going is appalling. He is brought home by his secretary, having obviously suffered a stroke, though this isn't named. No medical attention has been sought, and none is enlisted by his wife, the narrator, who maintains a vigil over him through the few dark days and nights that follow. It's like something from a Victorian novel. Then he dies. These scenes are set, at a guess, in the 1970s, in an age perhaps less medicalised than today. But would you really not at the very least have called a doctor? The narrator doesn't, and there's no further comment on this. In Brookner we're beguiled into such acceptances. Why? Why? Is there a reason? Or is it just part of the weirdness of the Brookner world, the enigma that keeps us reading and kept her writing?