Henriëtte van Eyk was born in Amsterdam to a prosperous Dutch banker's family. She was educated by governesses and private schools. Her childhood was disrupted in 1911 when her father went bankrupt and fled to the country to avoid his creditors. Henriëtte and her mother and brother were left in poverty. In 1918, she won a scholarship to study biology at the University of Amsterdam with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. An unfortunate fall in 1928 left her with a complicated broken hip, and she had to stay in bed for the next 18 months, after which she gave up her studies. To earn money, she started writing stories for newspapers and magazines, and published a popular collection called De kleine parade (The Small Parade) in 1932. In 1936, she married Jean Lenglet, a writer who used the pseudonym Édouard de Nève; they divorced 10 years later. She became one of the most successful authors in 20th century Holland. In 1937 she published the prize-winning novel, Gabriël: de geschiedenis van een mager mannetje (Gabriel: The History of a Skinny Man), which was followed by numerous other bestselling works. She also wrote children's books and edited and translated many works in foreign languages. With Simon Vestdijk, with whom she had a long love affair, she wrote the novel Avontuur met Titia (Adventure with Titia, 1949).
Together with Wim Sonneveld, she wrote a successful musical version of De kleine parade in 1970. In 1973, she published her autobiography, entitled Dierbare wereld (Dear World).