Anita Brookner was born in London, England, on July 16, 1928; some references wrongly report the year as 1938. Her parents were Newson Brookner, a Polish immigrant and businessman, and Maude Schiska Brookner, who had been an opera singer before her marriage.
Brookner and her parents lived with her grandmother, part of an extended Polish Jewish family that included many aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a child she read many books by the great nineteenth century English novelist Charles Dickens. She was brought up according to Jewish traditions but because of her delicate health was never asked to learn Hebrew. Although Brookner is not religious and although she was born and reared in London, she thinks her upbringing may have caused her to feel like an outsider in English society. Critics think that many of the heroines of her novels reflect their author’s sense of estrangement.
She attended James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, a pleasant section of London south of the Thames River. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in French literature at King’s College of the University of London. She then studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, also in London, where she was awarded a doctorate. She had traveled to Paris, France, conducting research to write her dissertation, which she later revised for publication as Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-Century Phenomenon (1972).
Brookner had a distinguished career as an art historian before turning to fiction. She taught first from 1959 to 1964 as a visiting lecturer at the University of Reading in England and after 1964 at the Courtauld Institute. In 1967-1968, she was the first woman to hold the distinguished post of Slade Professor of Art at Cambridge University. She has published several highly acclaimed works on art history, mainly on French painting of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Brookner began her career as a novelist when she was about fifty years old....
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