4th Estate buys memoir exploring impact of sister's suicide

4th Estate buys memoir exploring impact of sister's suicide

4th Estate will publish writer Catherine Simpson’s memoir which explores the impact of her sister’s suicide and the posthumous discovery of her diaries.

Helen Garnons-Williams, publishing director at 4th Estate, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to When I Had a Little Sister: The Story of a Farming Family Who Never Spoke from Joanna Swainson at Hardman & Swainson.

Simpson’s younger sister, Tricia, died aged 46 in 2013 following a life battling with depression. However mental illness was seen as a “taboo subject” within her Lancashire farming family and Tricia was labelled  “moody or difficult, not ill”.

After she committed suicide, Simpson found her sister had “kept a lifetime of diaries”. Through these, she was able to explore the history of her sister’s suicide and gain greater insight into an illness which affects so many, according to the publisher.

In the memoir, Simpson “takes a hard, wry look at how death and other difficult subjects" were handled in her family and families like hers.

The publisher said: "It also gives a fascinating insight into the last three generations of a Lancashire farming family and a way of life which has now all but disappeared."

Garnons-Williams said: "Catherine writes beautifully and with an unflinching honesty, leavened by humour and by her vivid evocation of farming life. This is a heartbreaking book – and, we believe, an important one -  about family, loss, guilt and love and the devastating impact mental illness can have, especially when it is unacknowledged.”

Simpson now lives in Edinburgh and also writes articles and short stories.

She said: “I am thrilled to be working with Helen Garnons-Williams and 4th Estate in bringing my family story to the public. I hope it resonates with anyone who has ever felt unable to talk about a difficult subject and with any family still suffering in silence. My sister Tricia died over four years ago and I think of her every day. This book is for her.”

Simpson’s debut novel, Truestory (Sandstone Press) was published in 2015 for which she received a Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Award, was inspired by her experiences of raising her autistic daughter Nina.