Thea Astley was born in Brisbane and educated at the University of Queensland. She taught in schools until 1967, then Macquarie University between 1968-80. Her novels have attracted wide praise and a number of awards, including four Miles Franklin Awards. In 1989 she won the Patrick White Award and was granted an honorary doctorate from the University of Queensland. She was made AO in 1992 and was made a Creative Fellow of the Australia Council in 1993.
Astley's fiction shows a particular interest in Queensland history and locales, and frequently explores the role of Catholicism in everyday life. The bleak action of her novels often destabilises Australian myths that circulate around the idea of a homogenous male identity. Her works expose injustice and cruelty in Australian life, especially towards Indigenous people, women and the elderly. They amount to a plea for compassion, and for awareness of the needs and suffering of those who are forgotten, marginalised or powerless.