On a cold December day in 2013 Catherine Simpson received the phone call she had feared for years.

Her younger sister Tricia had been found dead in the farmhouse where she, Catherine and older sister Elizabeth were born – and where their family had lived for generations.

Tricia was 46 and had been stalked by depression all her life. Yet mental illness was a taboo subject within the family and although love was never lacking, there was a silence at its heart.

After Tricia died, Catherine found she had kept a lifetime of diaries. The words in them took her back to a past they had shared, but experienced so differently, and offered a thread to help explore the labyrinth of her sister’s suicide.

When I had a Little Sister is a searingly honest and wryly heartbreaking memoir about a Lancashire farming family, whose love of their land came hand in hand with the resilience to live off it, and whose way of life has now all but disappeared. It’s a story of sisters and sacrifice, grief and reclamation, and of the need to speak the unspeakable.

‘Catherine Simpson’s memoir of her younger sister’s suicide is nothing less than an excavation of her family archaeology: a bold attempt to answer the question of how we become the people we are. Simpson is brilliant on the memories evoked by the accumulated junk left behind by the dead; she’s brilliant on the weird dynamics of family relationships; but most of all she brilliant at directing her clear-eyed gaze at the stuff we often prefer to turn away from. There are moments here of heart-stopping poignancy and unbearable sadness, but it is never maudlin or sentimental. Simpson is too good a writer for that, and it is her restraint and phlegmatic humour which lend the book its tremendous power. A deeply engaging, courageous and human work.’ - Graeme Macrae Burnet, author of His Bloody Project

‘(Simpson) vividly and thoughtfully unpicks the circumstances in which she and her sisters were raised…With its silent men and thwarted women, Simpson’s family is a study in gender oppression.’ - Times Literary Supplement

‘…tormented, riveting and bleakly funny…heart-rending…compassionate and beadily observed…honesty underwrites what should be an enduring addition to writing about both mental illness and rural England,’ - Richard Benson, The Observer

‘…unsentimental, witty at times, yet precisely moving…I found this book gripping and heart-wrenching. It sticks with me still.’ - Jenny McCartney, Mail on Sunday

‘A poignant memoir…a rich family history that seeks to find a way to address the unspoken. Simpson is a precise and skilled writer. This memoir…is a considerable achievement.' - Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Times

‘If you loved Tara Westover’s Educated, get yourself a copy of When I Had a Little Sister as soon as humanly possible…beautifully under-stated…a startling, elegiac portrait of farming life in modern Britain.’ - Vogue

‘Brave and elegiac…Ultimately it’s a story of what it is to love someone with mental illness.’ - Caroline Sanderson, Editor’s Choice, Bookseller

‘Simpson reconstructs a complicated portrait of the past with tenderness and unsparing detail…’ - The List

‘…insightful, compelling and very moving.’ - Portobello Book Blog

‘Catherine Simpson’s memoir of her sister Tricia’s suicide mixes the coolness of her journalistic training with the subjective pain of loss in dreadful circumstances. But something else is on these pages: frustration and anger – with Tricia, with herself and with other relatives – that if only the family tradition of silence and the suppression of feelings had been challenged earlier things might have been different. In analysing the inherited values and habits of a lifetime, Simpson breaks the silence and liberates herself’ - James Robertson, author of And the Land Lay Still

‘When I Had a Little Sister, Catherine Simpson’s second book, carries a subtitle – “The Story of a Farming Family who Never Spoke.” Don’t be fooled. This book’s secret weapon – alongside the strength and power of its story – is the remarkable voice that fires from the page to the heart with no hesitation at all. Just Wonderful.’ - Janice Galloway, author of The Trick is to Keep Breathing

‘I found this a very powerful and moving read…Many readers will experience their own moments of emotional connection, and many readers is precisely what this book deserves.’ - Isabel Costello, Literary Sofa