Elspeth Sandys

Elspeth Sandys was born in Timaru, New Zealand and educated at Otago and Auckland Universities. She moved to the UK in 1969. She has published 9 novels ('River Lines' was long listed for the Orange prize in 1996), two collections of short stories ('Standing in Line' won the Pen International, Elena Garro prize in 2003), two memoirs ('What Lies Beneath’ and ‘Casting Off’) and has written extensively for the BBC and RNZ. She has also worked in film and tv. Her stage plays have been performed in the UK and NZ. In July 2019 Elspeth published ‘A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley’ a story that combines family memoir, biography, history and travelogue. Elspeth has held a number of literary fellowships and residencies, and in 2006 was awarded the ONZM for services to literature. She now lives in New Zealand.


 Recent Works

The Camp (Short Story) by Elspeth Sandys     Published in The Reading Room 

Advice (Short Story) by Elspeth Sandys Published in The Reading Room 

The Photograph (Short Story) by Elspeth Sandys Published in The Reading Room 

Going West Digital Festival 2020

A podcast from the 2015 Festival featuring Elspeth in conversation with Murray Grey about her memoir What Lies Beneath.

Festival director Robyn Mason describes the interview as "a very moving session and one of my personal favourites."

Listen here

Rewi Alley seemed the last person on Earth you’d predict to play any part at all in revolutionary China, let alone a major part. A soldier, a farmer, a fireman and – eventually – the architect of one of the greatest labour movements of all time, his life story is as complex and enigmatic to outsiders as it seems perfectly ordinary to himself. And yet “the great friend to the people of China” – and personal friend to Mao Zedong – often struggled to fit in to his country of birth. At times vilified, ostracised, spied on and (finally) celebrated, Alley continues to challenge New Zealanders’ ideas of heroism, especially as relations between China and New Zealand ebb and flow. In this new biography by Alley’s cousin, novelist Elspeth Sandys, we get to know the quiet bloke from Canterbury who dabbled in poetry and decided “to go and have a look at China.” In a book that layers biography, memoir and novelistic features, Sandys presents a close, personal and comprehensive account of the kiwi who became a Chinese hero.