The Author, Stella Duffy

stella duffy elthamreadStella Duffy was born in Woolwich in 1963 but spent most of her childhood in New Zealand before returning to London in 1986. Her mother’s family lived in poor parts of Kennington and Deptford. As well as writing 15 novels, Duffy is a prolific short story writer, playwright and theatre director. She is also co-director of the Fun Palaces initiative which encourages community groups to take over public venues for arts and science activities for one weekend each October. Eltham Library has signed up a Fun Palace for 7 October.

Stella Duffy’s website

Stella Duffy talks about London Lies Beneath

Fun Palaces

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Find out the facts behind the fiction.

london lies beneath elthamreadLondon Lies Beneath is based on the true story of the Walworth Boy Scouts tragedy when the Training Ship Arethusa sank on 4 August 1912 near Leysdown. The disaster is commemorated with a plaque in Nunhead Cemetery.

The book is set in Walworth amid the bustle of East Lane Market, now better known as East Street Market, off Walworth Road in Southwark.

One of the characters in the book is based on Edward Lovett, who built up a large collection of charms and amulets. Today they are kept in the Cuming Museum, Southwark, and the Horniman Museum, Forest Hill.

Edward Lovett’s map of his finds:

Edward Lovett map elthamread

Press Release:

London Lies Beneath
Stella Duffy
Published by Virago on 2nd March 2017, £8.99
‘(Stella) reinvents her personal wheel with every few books and this promises another exciting departure’ Patrick Gale

‘Compelling and masterful . . . a powerful and rich read’ Elle

‘Vivid ... full of heart, Duffy’s new novel is a fitting hymn to the city that inspired it’ Financial Times

‘A paean not just to South London, but to a vanished way of working-class life . . . Duffy’s narrative is as fluid as a costermonger's patter, carrying the reader along’ Daily Mail

‘Hauntingly beautiful’ Sunday Mirror

‘A great novel about South London and one that finds the essentially rural nature of its roots. Stella Duffy has made this exotic domain her own’ Jake Arnott

‘Crafted in glorious prose and teeming with genuine wisdom, London Lies Beneath is a story of youth, adventure, friendship and tragedy. Beautifully layered and anchored in extraordinary historical detail, this is a story that truly haunts. Be careful when you pick up this novel, it will stay with you forever’ Priya Parmar

Based on a true story, a compelling novel set in south London, 1912. The first novel in four years from the critically-acclaimed and award-winning Stella Duffy.

Tom, Jimmy and Itzhak may come from different cultural backgrounds but the three boys have one thing in common: the streets of Walworth in which they were all raised. Their futures seem set. Each will follow in his father’s trade and adapt to a life where extended family overlaps within bustling narrow streets. But the pull of the Thames is strong and it is Tom in particular whose heart is set on a life at sea. Soon they are on a journey that will alter both their lives and their community.

Inspired by real events, this is the story of three families, and a tragedy that will change them for ever. It is also a song of south London, of working class families with hidden histories, of a bright and complex world long neglected. London Lies Beneath is a powerful and compelling novel, rich with life and full of wisdom.

Author Biography

Stella Duffy OBE has written thirteen novels, over fifty short stories, and ten plays. She has twice won Stonewall Writer of the Year and twice won the CWA Short Story Dagger. HBO have optioned her two Theodora novels for television. In 2014 Salt published her short story collection, Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined. In addition to her writing work, Stella is a theatre-maker and the co-director of the international Fun Palaces campaign for greater access to culture for all. In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to the Arts. Her website is

For further information please contact Zoë Hood, Deputy Publicity Director, 020 3122 6675,