Shirley Hazzard was born in Sydney, Australia to a Welsh father and Scottish mother. She wrote works of fiction and non-fiction.
Her family moved from Australia to Hong Kong where, at the age of 16, she began working for the British Combined Intelligence Services. At 20 she moved to New York and there she worked for the United Nations throughout much of the 1950s, which included a posting to Naples. She married Francis Steegmuller, translator and biographer, in 1963. They were introduced by Muriel Spark. Her last novel, The Great Fire, won the 2003 National Book Award for fiction and was longlisted for the Booker Prize.