Bio

Bio

Born in Bristol, Helen Simpson lived in Wealdstone, north London, until she was seven and then in a suburb of Croydon, where she went to school.  She read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford and gained a M.Litt. for her thesis on Restoration farce.

After university she lived in south London, working for five years as a staff writer on Vogue magazine, having won one of its annual talent contests.  During this time she also wrote two recipe books while finishing her thesis, researching all in the old British Museum Reading Room after work.  She had always been working in her own time on short stories and once these started to be published on a regular basis she went freelance, also contributing features to newspapers and magazines.  In 1989 she had the first of her two children, and in 1990 published her first short story collection, Four Bare Legs in a Bed.  Since then, she has published a new collection every five years; the latest, Cockfosters (2015), is the sixth.  

 


Her mother was a Londoner, forced out of school by the war at 14; afterwards she trained as a primary school teacher. Her father’s family were shipbuilders from the north-east; he was apprenticed in the shipyards and ended up as a naval architect, but left in his 40s to become a teacher, too. Simpson herself was “the first in my family to go to university; the first from my school to go to Oxford”; her education deposited her in precisely the professional middle-classes from which her characters are lifted.
Sarah Crown, Guardian interview

Walking over from Hanover Square after work, I would be seated by 6.30pm, bracing myself against the Reading Room’s drowsy embrace: I had quotations to check!
From FT Weekend magazine piece on Secret/Hidden London