Featured writer: Catherine Simpson

We are delighted to welcome Catherine Simpson as our Featured Writer. Catherine’s memoir When I Had a Little Sister has received national acclaim. You can immediately see why in the riveting extract from the first chapter below.

When I Had a Little Sister, was published in Feb 2019 by Fourth Estate. It tells the story of the death by suicide of her little sister, Tricia. Reviews included: ‘A superb memoir’ – The Sunday Times; ‘A poignant memoir…a considerable achievement’ – The Times; ‘gripping and heart-wrenching’ – The Mail on Sunday; ‘brave and elegiac’ – the Bookseller; ‘tormented, riveting and bleakly funny’ – The Observer.

Catherine received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for the opening chapters of Truestory, her debut novel, which went on to be published by Sandstone Press in 2015. Truestory was inspired by Catherine’s experiences of raising her autistic daughter, Nina.

Chapter One When I Had a Little Sister

Saturday 7th December 2013, late afternoon

I peer into the bathroom and from here the room looks like a tableau with the main character removed. On the wooden floor is a striped mug half-full of cold coffee. I move closer and see the milk cold and pale, risen to the top. Beside the mug is a packet of opened cigarettes, not Tricia’s usual baccy and Rizla papers, and next to that her blue plastic lighter. There are four floating dog-ends in the toilet bowl.

It is dark outside and gloomy in, and the house is filled with a terrible quiet.

Tricia must have sat on the bathroom floor with her back to the radiator long enough to smoke four cigarettes, dragging hard, taking the smoke deep into her lungs and holding it, holding it, for long seconds at a time, before blowing it out of the side of her mouth, eyes squint, then when she’d got down to the filters grinding out the butts and dropping them in the toilet bowl one after the other. She was smoking in the bathroom to help her cut down – she had banned herself from smoking anywhere else in the house because she wanted to be healthy.

On the night she died she was still trying to be healthy.


When did she decide to die? Was it before midnight on Friday the 6th, because she couldn’t face another night, or was it before dawn on Saturday the 7th, because she couldn’t face another day?

Did she think about us? Did she think about her dog, Ted, or her cat, Puss, sleeping on Grandma Mary’s old sofa in the conservatory and who would be waiting for her to feed them in the morning? What about her horses in the stable – Billy and Sasha – who she called her ‘babies’? Did she think about them? Did she imagine Dad finding her? It would have to be Dad, after all. It couldn’t be anyone else.

Did she know what she was doing?

© Catherine Simpson 2019

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