Shirley Hazzard was born in Sydney, Australia on January 30, 1931. She studied at Queenwood College until 1946. Before becoming an author in the early 1960s, she went to work for the British Intelligence, Hong Kong Division, was an employee of the British High Commissioner's Office in Wellington, New Zealand, and a technical assistant to under-developed countries for the United Nations. Her first book, Cliffs of Fall and Other Stories, was published in 1963. Her other works include The Evening of the Holiday, People in Glass Houses: Portraits from Organization Life, The Bay of Noon, Greene on Capri, Countenance of Truth, and Defeat of an Ideal. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1981 for The Transit of Venus and the 2003 National Book Award for The Great Fire.