Booker Prize winner Anita Brookner dies

Booker Prize winner Anita Brookner dies

Booker Prize winner Dr Anita Brookner CBE has died, aged 87.

She died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday (10th March), according to a notice published in the Times. It also said there will be no funeral at Dr Brookner's request.

The bestselling novelist and art historian wrote 25 novels and penned her first, A Start in Life (Penguin), at the age of 53. She went on to win the Booker for her fourth novel Hotel du Lac (Penguin) in 1984, which was subsequently adapted for television in 1986.

Dr Brookner's work frequently featured clever, mostly female protagonists, who were often socially isolated. Her last work was the 2011 novella At The Hairdressers (Penguin Specials), about a woman who lives in basement flat near Victoria and leaves the house only to go shopping and to have her hair done. 

Born in London, and a student of art history, Dr Brookner rose to become a visiting Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cambridge and was the first woman to hold the professorship.

Penguin Books, which had scheduled to reissue Dr Brookner's novels in autumn 2016, has since brought publication forward to early summer 2016. The novels to be reissued include: A Start in Life, Providence, Look at Me, Family and Friends and Lewis Percy which will be reissued in May 2016, and Falling Slowly, Undue Influence, The Bay of Angels, The Next Big Thing and Hotel du Lac which will be reissued in June 2016.

Juliet Annan, Dr Brookner's editor at Penguin Random House UK since 1998, said: "Anita Brookner’s works will last. She was an exceptional writer in so many ways: she was a superb art historian, and wrote several major works of art history on David, Watteau and Greuze. She was an erudite critic, from the shortlist of the Prix Goncourt to the latest crime novels. But she will be remembered best for her twenty-four extraordinary novels, and in particular for Hotel du Lac which won the Man Booker Prize in 1984. Her novels are beautifully written – her sentence structure is pure pleasure. But I think what people miss is that her novels are some of the most shocking of the twentieth century, for underneath the veneer of novels plots about women failing to marry, failing to see the venal in those around them, failing to make successful lives, she wrote about the biggest  fears we have: loneliness and death. I became her editor and publisher in 1998, and The Next Big Thing (2002) is her late great masterpiece and is on an even more shocking subject: not just fear of loneliness – but fear of loneliness at the moment of death.    

"If all of this sounds gloomy, it was not: her novels are often very funny as her hapless heroes and heroines fail to read the clues around them. And she was funny, incisive and self-deprecating in person, and the most lovable of authors: I adored her, and to be with her was to want to behave better and be worthy of her instinctive rightness on everything and depth of moral sense. You sat up straighter. You tried not to say anything silly. There are few people, let alone novelists, as intelligent, as intellectually rigorous as she. We will miss her."      

The author community also paid tribute. In the Times, author Jilly Cooper called her "an icon" who “never stopped watching and observing” and praised her for her "wonderful lucid prose". Jonathan Coe, meanwhile, tweeted: "Oh no - the magnificent Anita Brookner has died. So sad." Orange Prize winning novelist Linda Grant also tweeted: "Anita Brookner was ill-served by younger female reviewers who thought her world was slight and complacent. Couldn't be more wrong."