Kate Grenville was born and educated in Sydney, attending Cremorne Girls High School before taking a BA Honours from the University of Sydney in 1972.
In 1976, after working as an editor for Film Australia, Grenville travelled to the United Kingdom and Europe, working at several editorial and secretarial jobs. While in Europe, she began writing fiction. She was based in London and Paris between 1976 and 1980.
In 1980 she moved to Colorado, USA, to complete a masters degree in creative writing at the University of Colorado. Several of her subsequent publications were developed here and she also began her career as a teacher of creative writing.
While Grenville's early fiction exhibits a strong feminist tone, her later fiction often explores the social limitations on both men and women. But it is Grenville's exploration of women's progress in both gothic and comic modes for which she is most admired.
Grenville's career as a teacher of creative writing has produced several books, including Making Stories: How Ten Australian Novels Were Written (1993) which analyses the manuscripts of writers such as Peter Carey, Elizabeth Jolley and Patrick White. Grenville's writing career has been supported by several Australia Council grants and she has won a number of literary prizes, including the Christina Stead Prize (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Orange Prize, and the Vance Palmer Prize (Victorian Premier's Literary Awards).
In 2017, she published the non-fiction work The Case Against Fragrance, an investigation into the science behind scent and the fragrance industry. Her other non-fiction work includes One Life : My Mother's Story, a biography of her mother, who had first trained and worked as a pharmacist and then, after returning to university, as an ESL teacher.
Nance was a week short of her sixth birthday when she and Frank were roused out of bed in the dark and lifted into the buggy, squashed in with bedding, the cooking pots rattling around in the back, and her mother shouting back towards the house: Goodbye, Rothsay, I hope I never see you again!
'When Kate Grenville’s mother died she left behind many fragments of memoir. These were the starting point for One Life, the story of a woman whose life spanned a century of tumult and change. In many ways Nance’s story echoes that of many mothers and grandmothers, for whom the spectacular shifts of the twentieth century offered a path to new freedoms and choices. In other ways Nance was exceptional. In an era when women were expected to have no ambitions beyond the domestic, she ran successful businesses as a registered pharmacist, laid the bricks for the family home, and discovered her husband’s secret life as a revolutionary.
'One Life is an act of great imaginative sympathy, a daughter’s intimate account of the patterns in her mother’s life. It is a deeply moving homage by one of Australia’s finest writers.' (Publication summary)
Sarah Thornhill2011single work novel historical fiction 'Sarah Thornhill is the youngest child of William Thornhill, convict-turned-landowner on the Hawkesbury River. She grows up in the fine house her father is so proud of, a strong-willed young woman who's certain where her future lies. She's known Jack Langland since she was a child, and always loved him. But the past is waiting in ambush with its dark legacy. There's a secret in Sarah's family, a piece of the past kept hidden from the world and from her. A secret Jack can't live with... ' (Trove record)
'Daniel Rooke, soldier and astronomer, was always an outsider. As a young lieutenant of marines he arrives in New South Wales on the First Fleet in 1788 and sees his chance. He sets up his observatory away from the main camp, and begins the scientific work that he hopes will make him famous.
'Aboriginal people soon start to visit his isolated promontory, and a child named Tagaran begins to teach him her language. With meticulous care he records their conversations. An extraordinary friendship forms, and Rooke has almost forgotten he is a soldier when a man is fatally wounded in the infant colony. The lieutenant faces a decision that will define not only who he is but the course of his entire life.
'In this profoundly moving novel Kate Grenville returns to the landscape of her much-loved bestseller The Secret River. Inspired by the notebooks of William Dawes, The Lieutenant is a compelling story about friendship and self-discovery by a writer at the peak of her powers.' (Publisher's blurb)