Livingston returns to her concern for life among the lowly in turn-of-the-century Britain (The Far Side of the Hill, 1988; The Land of Our Dreams, 1989), again to plump for the primacy of simple virtues. Suffolk and London are the settings for this tale of hard times, cruelty, and injustice--with its sunny conclusion. Against all good advice, lusty housemaid Sybilla marries lazy lout Enoch Porrit, and then learns that there's no escape. This knowledge of lifelong servitude to a miserable union changes Sybilla from a pretty, lively girl, to a witch. Sybilla manipulates her way to a strange sort of independence, cheating and exploiting the helpless, and worse, brutalizing her brother's gentle, dependent orphans: two boys, Chas and Albert, who will at a tender age go to India with the army; and Polly, who will be hired out as a kitchen maid, then marry shy, courteous middle-aged Henry. There will also be a lover...and a baby. Eventually, Chas, escaping marriage, bolts for America; and Albert, kind and good, finds a true mate in Esther, a blossom in London's grime. Finally, though, the lost brothers will return; there'll be a sad death and welcome births; the good will be rewarded, and the wicked will rage in all those blind alleys. In spite of an extravagance in coincidence and heavy underlining of Good and Evil, Livingston offers a convincing energetic appreciation of the times and the poisoning wells of poverty--which fuels reader affection for all suffering innocents.