The acclaimed novelist "whose saga of a wealthy English family living in the shadow of war enchanted readers a generation ahead of ‘Downton Abbey,’ died Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, her friend and publicist said," reports the Associated Press.
The author, Elizabeth Jane Howard, was 90. The cause of death was not released.
The story reports: "Howard’s whirlwind life saw her write 15 novels, leave three marriages, model, act, broadcast, and much more. Many of her books were critical successes, but she was best known for ‘The Cazalet Chronicles,’ which followed the tangled lives and loves of several generations of an aristocratic household in the run-up to World War II."
"The Cazalets" became a 6-part limited series on the BBC in 2001.
In the 1970s Howard penned a teleplay for the classic British TV series "Upstairs, Downstairs."
Howard’s publicist told the AP that the Cazalet books "preceded, by a long way, ‘Downton Abbey.’ People love reading family sagas set slightly in the past — not too far back (but) close enough for you to touch, within living memory. She unconsciously got that long before (‘Downton Abbey’ creator) Julian Fellowes."
The obituary also notes that Howard’s publicist described the author as "remarkably odd, and interesting, and fabulous, and brave. She walked away from a marriage, which was a very advantageous one, to do what she wanted to do, which was write. She lived her life in a way that she wanted to live it in, in a way that women at that time just didn’t have the nerve. She had the nerve."
Howard’s first husband was Peter Scott, the son of Robert Scott, who explored the Antarctic. She was also married to the famous writer Kingsley Amis. The British novelist Martin Amis is her stepson.