Naive and trusting, Tizzie never questions the life she leads as unpaid help in her brother’s household. Help is not quite correct – Tizzie is an accomplished cheese-maker, and by rights she should have a nice amount of money set by for her hard efforts, but brother Jack and rapacious sister-in-law Maggie have been stealing from her for years.
And not only her money. Tizzie was in love, but should she marry, her brother would have been obliged to pay her dowry, so he lied, making Tizzie believe her sweetheart had left without her. Since then, Tizzie has locked her feelings away – except for when it comes to Agnes, her niece who is destined to a life as unpaid help to her oldest brother. History repeating itself, but when Tizzie discovers how Jack stole her future, she vows she’ll not let the same happen to Agnes.
And so a silent and lethal power-struggle begins with Tizzie and Agnes fighting a losing battle against Maggie’s greed. Ms Lindsay does an excellent job of depicting the building tension, the slow tightening of the bonds of future servitude round a desperate ten-year-old girl and her helpless aunt. But Tizzie and Agnes have some allies, and the more Maggie pushes, the more Tizzie realises this is a fight she must win – for Agnes’ sake.
Set in the Yorkshire Dales at the end of the nineteenth century, Tizzie is not only the dark and gritty tale of a woman whose dreams were cruelly crushed by her brother and his wife. It is also a vibrant description of life in the 1880s, period detail inserted with impressive skill in a narrative that flowers into fantastic descriptions of the Dale while never losing pace and a sense of impending doom. This is a harrowing and addictive reading experience in which hope flickers feebly in the dark. But it does flicker, and it is quite impossible to remain unaffected by Tizzie’s determination to ensure her niece will have what she was denied – a life.