Saturday 2 June 2018

The Rules of Engagement: Normal

'Normal': that dread and difficult word resonates through The Rules of Engagement. A quick search reveals thirty-nine uses. Many writers avoid it, or put it in quotes, or make fun of those who espouse its importance. Think of Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

But Elizabeth is one of Brookner's most debilitated protagonists. At her lowest point, grieving, she writes:
I should have to invent a life that others would see as normal... (Ch. 8)
Her lover Edmund is 'normal'. Not just of a better class, and more moneyed, but somehow superior in some essential and unquestionable way. In earlier novels Brookner might have railed against this state of affairs, this 'normality'. But we're in the late phase here. There's a real sense of defeat and acceptance.

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