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When I Had A Little Sister Reviews

When I Had A Little Sister by Catherine Simpson

When I Had a Little Sister

The Story of a Farming Family Who Never Spoke

Catherine Simpson

4.50 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Fourth Estate Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 29 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9780008301637

When I had a Little Sister by Catherine Simpson is a searingly honest and heartbreaking account of growing up in a farming family, and of Catherine's search for understanding into what led her younger sister to kill herself at 46. It's a story of sisters and sacrifice, grief and reclamation, and of the need to speak the unspeakable.

  • The BooksellerEditor's Choice
4 stars out of 5
Caroline Sanderson
9 Nov 2018

"(a) brave and elegiac account of growing up in a Lancashire farming family who combined their fierce love with a devastating inability to discuss either mental illness or death"

Among a whole slew of moving debut memoirs this month, I chose this brave and elegiac account of growing up in a Lancashire farming family who combined their fierce love with a devastating inability to discuss either mental illness or death. Simpson writes movingly of her sister Tricia's suicide at the age of 46, and the decades of depression that led up to it, charted in diaries which documented a childhood the sisters shared but experienced very differently. Ultimately it's a story of what it is to love someone with mental illness.

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
8 Feb 2019

"a considerable achievement"

This is not a depressing read, but rather a rich family history that seeks to find a way to break the silence and address the unspoken... Much of this book is Catherine’s attempt to explain Tricia, to understand what happened, to wonder if things could have been done differently... This memoir about Tricia, but also about a family going from five to four to three, about the history of a Lancashire farm, is a considerable achievement.

4 stars out of 5
4 Feb 2019

"That honesty underwrites what should be an enduring addition to writing about both mental illness and rural England"

n a way, the real memorial for Tricia is the compassionate and beadily observed account of the Lancashire landscape. Simpson is unafraid to plait the pastoral with the darker aspects of country life: she does not hide the ugly accoutrements of intensive farming, such as pig farrowing crates, and she shows how flashers and gropers sometimes took advantage of all three sisters when travelling alone in open country. That honesty underwrites what should be an enduring addition to writing about both mental illness and rural England. It would be something of a spoiler to say whether or not she finds a reason for her sister’s suicide, but less so to report that she appears to gradually understand and forgive her parents’ silences.

5 stars out of 5
Leaf Arbuthnot
27 Jan 2019

"laugh-out-loud funny"

Tricia’s heart-rending biography is interwoven with welcome portraits of Simpson’s bonkers ancestors, many of which are laugh-out-loud funny... Their difficult relationship is expertly drawn... The joy of the book lies in Simpson’s vivid evocation of the sisters’ wild childhood... There are warming tales of delivering fresh milk to neighbours on horseback, but the brutalities of agricultural life are laid bare, too: when a nest of baby rats is discovered, a farmworker stamps on their small pink bodies with hobnail boots, without a thought for whether the children witnessing it should be spared the massacre.