March 15, 2016 12:24 AM EDT

Anita Brookner, the celebrated British author and art historian, died in her sleep last week at the age of 87, the Times reported.

Brookner won the Man Booker Prize in 1984 for her romance novel Hotel du Lac, published only three years after she started writing fiction. Before that, she had spent decades as a renowned art historian and was the first woman to hold the celebrated Slade Professorship of Fine Art at Cambridge University.

She was born in London, the only child of two Polish Jews — a heritage, Brookner once said, that made her feel like “aliens” in the U.K. Brookner never married and leaves no children.

In a statement to the Times, the writer Jilly Cooper praised Brookner as a “wonderful writer” whose keen powers of observation fertilized “wonderful lucid prose.”

“I used to watch her at parties and everybody else was getting legless while she was just observing everybody,” Cooper said. “She never stopped watching and observing.”


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