Obituary: Anita Brookner, novelist

Anita Brookner, award-winning novelist was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University. Picture: PA
Anita Brookner, award-winning novelist was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University. Picture: PA
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Born: 16 July, 1928, Herne Hill, London. Died: 10 March, 2016, aged 87.

Anita Brookner, a Booker Prize-winning novelist who explored the emotional undercurrents of quiet lives, has died at the age of 87.

Born in London in 1928, the only child of Polish Jewish parents, Brookner began her career as an art historian – specialising in French art – and was the first woman to be named Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University.

She published her first novel, A Start in Life, when she was 53 and went on to write some 25 works of fiction. She won the Booker Prize, Britain’s leading literary award, in 1984 for Hotel Du Lac, the story of an isolated writer adrift on the shore of Lake Geneva. It was later adapted into a BBC television miniseries.

Her spare, unflinching portrayals of loneliness and isolation won praise, especially from other writers. Novelist Jilly Cooper told the Times that Brookner was “a wonderful writer who had this wonderful lucid prose…she was an icon of my age”.

Her publisher, Juliet Annan, told the BBC that Brookner “wrote about the biggest fears we have: loneliness and death”.

In 1990 she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Brookner never married. The death notice said she had requested that there be no funeral.