Elspeth Sandys

ANZL Member

Photo credit: Robert Burgess

Elspeth Sandys has been a full time writer for the last 35 years. In that time, she has published nine novels, two collections of short stories and two memoirs. Her fiction focuses on relationships: personal, social and political. Some of her novels have historical settings, but the themes motivating the books are contemporary.

Amongst numerous accolades, Elspeth’s novel River Lines (Hodder & Stoughton; Hodder Moa-Beckett, 1995) was a finalist in the 1996 Orange Prize. Her short story collection, Standing in Line (Secretariat of Culture of Jalisco, 2003) won the Elena Garro Pen International Prize. In 2006, Elspeth was awarded the Officer of the Order of New Zealand for Services to Literature in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

Elspeth has written extensively for the BBC and RNZ, both original plays and adaptations, as well as a number of film and television scripts. Her stage plays have been performed in England and New Zealand. She has worked as a creative writing teacher, editor for Oxford University Press, and ghost written (with John Man) several non fiction works including, A State of Blood and The Survival of Jan Little.

Currently domiciled in New Zealand, Elspeth returns regularly to the UK, where she raised a family for over 20 years. She has an MA (First Class Hons) in English from Auckland University, an FTCL in Speech and Drama from Trinity College, London, and an LTCL in Music, also from Trinity College, London.

Elspeth, whose novel Obsession was published in 2017 by Upstart Press, has recently completed a nonfiction work celebrating the life of her cousin Rewi Alley of China.  A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley (Otago University Press, April 2019) is a multi-layered narrative centred around Alley and his part in the momentous political events of mid-twentieth-century China.



View Elspeth’s website

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura writer page

Otago University Press author page

MBA Literary and Script Agents author page

Micheal King Writers’ Centre residency news

Going West Festival podcast: Elspeth discusses her memoir What Lies Beneath (July, 2020)

Otago Daily Times extract from A Communist in the Family (Aug, 2019)

Landfall review of Casting Off (March, 2018)

Radio NZ interview discussing Casting Off, autobiography vs memoir and Elspeth’s loves and life (Sept, 2017)

Radio NZ review of Obsession on ‘Nine to Noon’ (April, 2017)

Radio NZ interview in which Elspeth discusses writing, life and Obsession in ‘Standing Room Only (March, 2017)

Spinoff article inwhich Elspeth discusses Obsession, Maurice Shadbolt and obsessive love (March, 2017)

NZ Herald review of What Lies Beneath (Nov, 2014)

Beatties Books review of What Lies Beneath (Nov, 2014)

Radio NZ interview with Kathyrn Ryan on What Lies Beneath (Sept, 2014)

Elspeth and What Lies Beneath at the Nelson Arts Festival media release (Sept, 2013)

Radio NZ audio production of ‘The Caves of Winds’ by Elspeth Sandys (Jul, 2011)

New releases by Elspeth Sandys

Nine Lives (essays)

Published by Upstart Press on November 11, 2021

Bibliography: Elspeth Sandys



Obsession (Upstart Press, 2017)

Standing in Line (Short stories: Secretariat of Culture of Jalisco, Mexico, 2006)

A Passing Guest (HarperCollins, 2002)

Seven Stories – Epitaph (Random House, 2000)

Enemy Territory (Hodder & Stoughton UK; Hodder Moa Beckett NZ, 1997; Paperback publication UK, 1998, NZ, 1998)

Riding to Jerusalem (Hodder Moa-Beckett, 1996)

River Lines (Hodder & Stoughton UK; Hodder Moa-Beckett NZ, 1995;

Best Friends  (Short stories: David Ling, August 1993)

Finding Out (Random House, 1991; re-published by Random House, 1992; published in France as Découvertes, Actes Sud, 1997)

Love and War (Secker & Warburg; in paperback by Futura, 1982)

The Broken Tree (Hutchinson; published in the US as The Burning Dawn, Dell, 1981)

Catch a Falling Star (Blond & Briggs, 1978)


Creative Nonfiction

A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley (Otago UP, 2019)

Casting Off (Otago UP, 2017)

What Lies Beneath (Otago UP, 2014)



Poems/short fiction published in various journals in New Zealand, England and Denmark including:

‘The Postman’ in Landfall (Short story: Nov, 2012)

Poetry in Landfall

Poetry in NZ Listener

Poetry in NZ Books

Poetry in PEN (UK)



Elspeth has short stories in numerous anthologies.

'The thirty-five of us were in the country of dream-merchants, and strange things were bound to happen.' - Anne Kennedy

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