Geneviève Dormann was born in Paris, a daughter of French journalist and politician Maurice Dormann. During World War II, the family fled to Tours, and she attended Roman Catholic boarding school. After the family returned to Paris, she attended the Lycée Jean de La Fontaine in Paris. At age 17, she married the painter Philippe Lejeune, with whom she had three daughters before divorcing after five years. She remarried to writer and lyricist Jean-Loup Dabadie, with whom she had another daughter. She worked as a journalist for the newspaper Le Figaro and wrote for magazines such Marie Claire and Le Point and for French radio. In 1959, she published her first book, La Première pierre (The First Stone), a collection of short stories, to critical acclaim. She went on to write some 15 novels, including several that won major literary awards, such as the Prix des Quatre-Jurys in 1971 for Je t'apporterai des orages; the Prix des Deux Magots in 1974 for Le Bateau du courier; and the prix Kléber Haedens in 1983 for Le Roman de Sophie Trébuchet, a fictionalized account of Victor Hugo's mother. In 1989, she was awarded the Grand Prix du roman from the Académie française for Le Bal du dodo. She also wrote for film, and was one of the scriptwriters for the 1976 movie Coup de Grâce, adapted from the novel by Marguerite Duras.