Anita Brookner Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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....

(The entire section is 822 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anita Brookner has created a number of distinctive novels. Her central characters usually are intelligent and sensitive women who yearn for love. The mood of the novels is somewhat somber because these women are foiled by many things: their own timidity, the restraints of family, and the self-centered greed of other people. Some of her later novels focus on male characters as well and describe the workings of more than one family. Readers get to know these characters well because of Brookner’s deft analyses of their motives and attitudes, as well as her descriptions of the surfaces of their lives. If the stories are unhappy, Brookner’s style is not: It is witty and imaginative.

Although some reviewers criticize Brookner’s novels as being redundant, other critics emphasize that Brookner does not repeatedly create the same plots and characters but introduces new perceptions presented through people and settings familiar to her. They maintain that her evolving insights enrich her literary style with each novel she writes. While detractors dismiss Brookner’s fiction as lacking sufficient literary substance, many scholars and readers recognize its qualities that merit continued attention.


(Novels for Students)

Anita Brookner Published by Gale Cengage

Novelist and art historian Anita Brookner was born on July 16, 1928, in London, the only child of Newson and Maude Brookner. Her father, who...

(The entire section is 460 words.)