Booker Prize-winning author and art historian Anita Brookner has died aged 87.
The bestselling novelist, who won the 1984 award for Hotel du Lac, died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday, it was announced yesterday.
She was described as an “icon” by Jilly Cooper, who joined figures from the world of literature paying tribute as news of the death emerged.
Born in London, Dr Brookner studied art history before she was made the first female Slade professor of art at the University of Cambridge.
After writing several books on the subject in the 1960s and 1970s, she turned her concentration to fiction, before winning the Booker Prize as an outsider.
Dr Brookner, who was made a CBE in 1990, was best known for exploring themes of social isolation through her female protagonists. Over a career spanning half a century she published 25 books, her last the 2011 novella At The Hairdressers.
Hotel du Lac tells the story of a romantic novelist who goes to stay in a hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva after breaking off an engagement. She meets an assortment of people, and observing them helps her understand what course to take in life.
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The novel became one of the top ten bestselling books of the 1980s and was adapted for a BBC television drama in 1986. Her other books included The Rules of Engagement and The Next Big Thing.
She was a described as a “wonderful writer who had this wonderful lucid prose... she was an icon of my age”, said Cooper.
She remembered how Dr Brookner “never stopped watching and observing” and described her as a “serious, serious writer who was very spare in her prose”.
Cooper added: “I used to watch her at parties and everybody was getting legless while she was just observing everybody.”
Lady Antonia Fraser said Hotel Du Lac was “pathfinding” as she described her respect for the author.
Orange Prize-winning novelist Linda Grant described Dr Brookner as an “underrated master of incisive fiction and laser prose”, tweeting: “Oh, I admired her so much.”
Ron Charles, editor of Book World at the Washington Post, tweeted: “Very sorry to hear of Anita Brookner’s passing. No one captured the rhythms of loneliness as brilliantly as she did.”
Jonathan Coe said: “A great writer. Hotel du Lac one of the best Booker winners ever in my opinion.”
Dr Brookner had requested not to have a funeral.