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Where to start with Stella Duffy

Where to start with Stella Duffy

Where to start with Stella Duffy

Stella Duffy OBE is an inspiration of hard-won wisdom and appetite for learning new things.

Author of seventeen novels, over seventy short stories including several for BBC Radio 4, and fifteen plays. She won the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2002 and 2013, was named Stonewall Writer of the Year in 2008 (The Room of Lost Things) and 2010 (Theodora), and won the Diva Literary Prize for Fiction in 2017 (London Lies Beneath) and 2021 (Lullaby Beach). Her novels The Room of Lost Things and State of Happiness were both longlisted for the Orange Prize. She wrote and presented the BBC4 documentary How to Write a Mills and Boon and has reviewed for The Review Show (BBC2), Front Row and Saturday Review (BBC Radio 4) and written articles for most major newspapers in the UK.

‘A writer who never lets you down’ Ali Smith

In addition to her writing work she worked in theatre for over thirty five years. She was the co-founder of the Fun Palaces Campaign for community-led culture and co-director from 2013 to 2021. Stella is a regular speaker and campaigner around LGBTQ+, women’s and arts equality and inclusion issues. She was awarded the OBE for Services to the Arts in 2016. She is a qualified yoga teacher, running workshops in yoga for writing, and has a doctorate in existential psychotherapy. Her research was in the embodied experience of postmenopause.

‘A versatile and gifted novelist’ Laura Lippman

Stella Duffy Ourshelves

In 2021 Stella Duffy joined us for an episode of OurShelves. In the episode Lucy and Stella discuss living without children in a pro-natalist society, how existentialism and yoga inform her writing and the time she met Patricia Highsmith – as well as why Bridgerton is brilliant. Click here to listen.



Read on for a guide to the nine Stella Duffy novels Virago publish, from newest to oldest.

Lullaby Beach by Stella Duffy

Lullaby Beach

First published in 2021, Lullaby Beach was Stella Duffy’s seventeenth novel – a compelling story of family secrets and the legacy of trauma, set against the changing fortunes of an English seaside town.

Lullaby Beach is about family, trauma, loss, abuse and survival. It’s about young people and the adults they – we – become. It’s about friendship across generations, the diagonal family bond between aunts and nieces, repeating family patterns – good as well as bad. It’s about learning to live with ourselves. It’s about learning, as Kitty does, to live with ourselves gloriously.’

Stella Duffy on Lullaby Beach


‘Faultless storytelling . . . Wise, generous, atmospheric’ Observer

Growing up after the war in Westmere, an English seaside town, Kitty has been sheltered by her parents, but meeting Danny changes all of that. She decides to leave everyone and everything she knows to follow Danny to London, in pursuit of glamour and opportunity, and this sets in motion a series of events that will echo down the generations. Over fifty years later, when Kitty’s body is found in her beach hut with a suicide note by her side, her great-niece will help to unravel all the secrets which the family has kept hidden over the decades.

‘Explores familial legacy, generational secrets and the effects of long-lasting trauma with a distinct tenderness’ New Statesman

‘A portrait of sisterhood . . . powerful’ Daily Mail

Click here to read the full article from Stella Duffy on Lullaby Beach, shared with Virago in 2021.

Click here to read an extract from Lullaby Beach.

The Hidden Room

The Hidden Room

Published in 2017, The Hidden Room is a gripping psychological suspense novel – riveting and hugely satisfying. The Hidden Room was Stella’s fifteenth novel and, at the time, the first crime novel she had published in twelve years. 

‘What a novel – dark, devious and shocking’ Andrew Taylor

‘Nobody turns the screw of tension tighter than Stella Duffy’ Val McDermid

Life is good for Laurie and Martha. They have three great kids, a much-loved home in the countryside, and Laurie’s career as an architect is finally taking off. Everything’s perfect.

Except, it isn’t.

Someone is about to walk into their happy family and tear it apart.

Laurie has been hiding from him for years. The question is, now that he’s found her, can she keep her family safe? And just how far will she go to protect them?

‘Spooky, atmospheric and as psychologically on point as it could be. If you want to be disturbed, read this book’ Alex Marwood

‘A haunting tale that lingers in the memory’ Sunday Times

‘Dark and tense with a gasp-inducing twist’ Woman & Home

Find out more about Stella Duffy – back in 2017 Stella sat down with Virago to talk about Crime Fiction, her favourite crime novels. Click here to read the Q&A.


London Lies Beneath by Stella Duffy

London Lies Beneath 

Based on a true story, London Lies Beneath is a compelling historical novel, published in hardback in 2016.

‘As gloriously alive as the turn of the century south London streets it portrays’ Red

In August 1912, three friends set out on an adventure. Two of them come home.

Tom, Jimmy and Itzhak have grown up together in the crowded slums of Walworth. All three boys are expected to follow their fathers’ trades and stay close to home. But Tom has wider dreams. So when he hears of a scouting trip, sailing from Waterloo to Sheppey and the mouth of the Thames – he is determined to go. And Itzhak and Jimmy go with him.

‘Hauntingly beautiful’ Sunday Mirror

Inspired by real eventsthis is the story of three friends, 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.

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


The purple shroud

The Purple Shroud

The sequel to the award-winning Theodora, The Purple Shroud was published in 2012.

‘I am your Empress, sir. I stand in the purple beside you, here with your men, your advisers, your generals. I know it has been said that too often I speak where a woman should remain silent. It may be inappropriate, but this crisis does not call for what is appropriate, it calls for what is right.’

In The Purple Shroud, the beguiling and extraordinary Empress Theodora emerges from the shadow of history into brilliant light. Clever, courageous and ruthless when betrayed, Theodora rules alongside her husband, the Emperor Justinian – a true love match in a world of political marriages. But while wars rage on the borders of the Empire, Theodora discovers that the greatest danger to her reign – and her life – lies much closer to home.

‘Hard-nosed, cruel, imaginative, kind, frustrated, generous, ruthless: Theodora is, in Duffy’s hands, a richly paradoxical character from whom the light of life shines brightly’ Guardian




First published in 2010, Theodora is a novel of great breadth and ambition – from the vibrant streets and erotic stage shows of sixth century Constantinople to the holy desert retreats of Alexandria. In the hands of Stella Duffy, Theodora is brought to life in full technicolour.

‘A witty, moving, sexy novel that bursts with as much colour and excitement as the city of Constantinople itself . . . a joyous and energetic read’ Financial Times

Charming, charismatic, heroic – Theodora of Constantinople rose from nothing to become the most powerful woman in the history of Byzantine Rome. In Stella Duffy’s breathtaking new novel, she comes to life again – a fascinating, controversial and seductive woman. Some called her a saint. Others were not so kind . . .

When her father is killed, the young Theodora is forced into near slavery to survive. But just as she learns to control her body as a dancer, and for the men who can afford her, so she is determined to shape a very different fate for herself.

‘Theodora is exquisitely summoned by Duffy . . . a story rich in colour, texture and taste, told in a fleet-footed narrative’ Daily Telegraph


The Room of Lost Things, Stella Duffy

The Room of Lost Things

Longlisted for the Orange Prize 2008.

Humming with life, packed tight with detail, The Room of Lost Things is a hymn of love to a great and overflowing city, and a profoundly human story that holds us in its grip from the first sentence until the last. This charming novel was published in 2008.

‘Stella Duffy strides into a whole new league with her lyrical, gritty, deeply affecting journey into the heart and soul of south London’ Manda Scott

Under his railway arch in Loughborough Junction, South London, Robert Sutton is taking leave of a lifetime of hard work. His dry-cleaning shop lies at the heart of a lively community, a fixed point in a changing world. And, as he explains to his successor, young East Londoner Akeel, it is also the resting place for the contents of his customers’ pockets – and for their secrets and lies. As he helps Akeel to make a new life out of his old one, Robert also hands on all he knows of his world: the dirty dip of the Thames; the parks, rare green oases in a desert of high-rises and decaying mansion blocks; and the varied lives that converge at the junction.


Singling out the couples, Stella DuffySingling Out The Couples

Singling Out The Couples was first published in 1998 and reissued by Virago in 2006.

‘A wise, witty, wicked book’ Scotsman

A princess, perfect in every way except one, arrives in London from a land of milk and honey and sets up home in a Notting Hill tower block. Her self-appointed mission – to break up couples in love. Men in love with women, men in love with men, and women in love with one another, in her beautiful hand she holds the ripe peach of love and deftly squeezes it dry. For what she lacks is a heart . . .

‘Duffy is at her most powerful with her merciless, wickedly accurate observations on the minutiae of modern metropolitan relationships of all persuasions . . . an irresistible delight’ Diva


Parallel Lies

Parallel Lies

Parallel Lies is a highly suspenseful and thought-provoking novel. Stella Duffy has written crime novels and dark romantic comedies. Here she combines the two.

 ‘[A] warm, witty and truthful love story’ Timeout

Despite her youth, Russian-born Yana Ivanova is already a Hollywood legend. She lives in a beautiful house in Beverly Hills with Jimmy, a sitcom star, and Penny, her British PA. Theirs is a strange and uneasy partnership, held together by sex, secrets and the fear of scandal. Then Yana starts receiving threatening letters from an anonymous but very knowledgeable source. Suspicion turns to fear, and fear leads to murder. But who exactly is conning whom?

Poison pen letters, fake identities, misplaced affection, betrayal and murder . . . Still think a menage à trois sounds fun?

Parallel Lies was published by Virago in 2005.


State of Happiness, Stella Duffy

State Of Happiness

First published in 2004 and longlisted for the Orange Prize in the same year.

‘Duffy is best known for her sharp insights and sharper wit, and both are on display here . . . Brave, understated and unforgettable’ Daily Mail

When Jack and Cindy meet at a friend’s party they are immediately attracted to one another. Cindy, a celebrated mapmaker, traces the contours of their relationship, from New York to LA, from first passion to real love.

After five years together, Cindy and Jack think they have tested their love to its limits. But then Cindy falls dangerously ill, and the couple must face the hardest test of all.

Told with wit, tenderness and unflinching honesty, State of Happiness is a captivating story of love and loss from a writer at the height of her powers.

State of Happiness is a sharp, sobering cocktail spiked with metaphysic, immense good humour and understanding. Stella Duffy gets better and better’ Ali Smith

Stella Duffy bundle

Click here to get your hands on three of Duffy’s novels for just £20.00 with our Stella Duffy bundle offer, available exclusively through the Virago Store.