Our Lizzie

Our Lizzie

by Anna Jacobs

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They say you only regret the things you don't do . . .

Lizzie Kershaw is an independent spirit; ever since her father's death she has had to be a survivor. Home life is harsh, though, and desperate to escape it, she makes an ill-advised marriage. But she discovers all-too-quickly that she's married a selfish and violent man. His beatings never seem to stop and she soon comes to a decision: she must run far, far away.

With the help of some suffragettes she escapes to Manchester, where she finds work in a munitions factory - she is finally the independent woman she has always longed to be. But her husband, whose cruelty knows no bounds, tracks her down and drag her back home to more beatings than ever.

But when his violence causes her to lose the one thing she's always wanted, Lizzie knows she must find the strength to make the changes in her life that are so sorely needed.


What readers are saying about OUR LIZZIE

'I'd recommend this book to all saga lovers' - 5 stars

'Another fantastic read . . . It made me laugh and it made me cry . . . Another page turner' - 5 stars

'Brilliant series of books. Lovely stories. Lovely characters' - 5 stars

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466882317
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 441 KB

About the Author

Anna Jacobs grew up in Lancashire and emigrated to Australia in 1973, but loves to return to England and visit her family. She has two adult daughters and lives with her husband in a spacious waterfront home.

Read an Excerpt

Our Lizzie

By Anna Jacobs

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1999 Anna Jacobs
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8231-7


September 1908

"Eeh, our Lizzie, don't do it! You'll get what for if Mam finds out."

Her sister Eva's words were all Lizzie needed to push her into accepting the dare. She tossed back her straight dark hair, half of which had fallen out of its plaits as usual, and scrambled up on top of the wall which kept the end of their street from sliding down the hill — at least, her dad said it did. The wall was only three feet high, but the drop on the other side was about twenty feet and suddenly, as she stood there wobbling and staring down, she wondered if this was a good idea.

Glancing over her shoulder, however, she saw the triumphant expression on Mary Holden's face and gritted her teeth. She wasn't going to back out now, not when her arch-enemy had dared her to walk right along the top of the wall.

Straightening up, she spread out her arms. That felt better. Glancing back again at the other girl, who was watching her now with a tight, annoyed expression on her plump face, she jeered, "It's no worse than walking along the edge of the pavement. See! Easy! Your turn next."

But it wasn't easy and Lizzie had a funny, shivery feeling in her stomach as she faced the narrow line of bricks. Taking a deep breath and keeping her eyes off the drop on her right, she began to walk slowly forward, one foot in its scuffed shoe edging into place in front of the other. There was nothing in the dare about doing it quickly, after all, just getting to the far end without falling off.

As Lizzie continued to move, her confidence rose. Ha! She would do it all right and then wouldn't Mary Holden look stupid? Because she wouldn't dare do this. She had a big mouth on her, but no guts. Five steps completed. Ten. It helped to count them, made her forget the drop tugging at her from the right.

Fifteen steps. Nearly halfway there. "Nothin' to it!" she jeered, but she didn't dare turn her head, not now. She could hear her sister's soft breathing over to her left — well, everything about Eva was soft and soppy — and she could feel the anger beating out from Mary behind her, as it had beaten at her many times before, for they'd been enemies from birth, even though their families lived opposite one another in Bobbin Lane. She let out her breath slowly, glad she'd made it a condition nobody spoke while she was walking the wall. That helped. A bit.

In the distance, she could hear the sound of clogs clattering over the cobblestones towards them. Oh, no! If it was a grown-up, she'd be for it. The sound kept coming closer, but although the footsteps slowed down at the corner, no voice called out to her to get off. Sighing in relief, she took another careful step forward.

Three-quarters of the way there now. She was going to make it. She was. But her legs felt stiff, sweat was trickling down her neck and she hated, absolutely hated, that drop. This was a dead stupid idea, but Mary had made her so angry, mocking the whole Kershaw family, especially Eva for being the teacher's pet! Well, Eva was a teacher's pet, but no one else was going to say that when Lizzie was around.

The footsteps had stopped now, but she didn't turn her head to see who was watching her. No one in her family, that was sure, for the Kershaws didn't wear clogs. Her mam took pride in turning out her children in proper shoes, even if they were bought second hand and pinched, as Lizzie's did, or let in water, as her younger brother Johnny's did.

Thirty steps. She wobbled, but regained her balance. "Thirty-three an' I'm there!" she called in sudden triumph as her toe touched the wall of the first house in Carters Row. Then she wobbled again and this time lost her balance as she tried to get off the wall. She shrieked in terror, sure she was going to crash twenty feet down to the cobblestones of Mill Road — but hands grabbed her, snatching her into the air, away from the drop. Safe! For a moment, she couldn't speak, couldn't breathe with the relief of it all, just held on to her rescuer for dear life, shuddering.

"You lost!" Mary's voice crowed behind her. "You lost the dare, Lizzie Kershaw. Now you have to carry my books to school."

She came out of her brief paralysis, struggling to get away from the hands that were still holding her. "I did not lose! I touched that wall with my toe and my hand. It was only when I was jumpin' down that I lost my balance."

"Did not!"

"Did so!"

"Be quiet, the pair of you!" roared a loud voice.

Only then did Lizzie realise who had rescued her — Sam Thoxby, who lived in the narrow alley at the end of her street. He was only a bit older than their Percy, but he was a big fellow and she'd never seen him look so angry!

Even as she stared up at him, he took her by the shoulders and shook her hard. "Stay there, you! I'll skin you alive if you move one step!"

With a gasp, Mary turned to flee but Sam caught hold of her skirt and dragged her back to his other side. "You, too, young lady! You can stay right here till I've done with you. An' you," a nod across at Eva, "had better not move, either!"

Lizzie saw how frightened her sister looked. Though even now, after a whole day at school, Eva's dark, wavy hair was neat and tidy and there was hardly a speck of dirt on her pinny. It wasn't fair how pretty and tidy she always looked.

A heavy hand on each girl's shoulder pulled them round to face one another. "You two are going nowhere," another shake, "till you've promised me never, ever to try that stupid trick again."

Mary stopped struggling to smile up at her captor, her voice soft now. "I won't if you say not to, Sam."

Lizzie closed her mouth firmly. She wasn't going to promise him anything. He might work with her brother, but he wasn't family and he had no right, no right at all, to interfere.

His fingers dug into her shoulder. "I'm waiting, Lizzie Kershaw. An' I'm not moving a step till I hear you promise."

She scowled up at him. "Shan't, then."

He gave Mary a push. "I shall know if you break your promise. Get off home with you." The look he turned upon Lizzie was severe in the extreme. "You could have been killed, you silly little fool."

"What have you been doing now, our Lizzie?"

Oh, no! Their Percy would have to turn up. He was always trying to boss her around. If she had to have a big brother, why couldn't she have a tall, good-looking one like Peter Dearden, who gave his little brother sweets from the shop and never had a cross word for anyone? Lizzie scowled at Percy, who looked so thin and faded next to other men, especially a huge fellow like Sam Thoxby.

"What have you been doing now, Lizzie Kershaw?" he repeated, catching hold of her arm.

"Nothin'." She tried to twist away, but was held fast between the two men.

Sam's fingers tightened. "You can stop that wriggling, young lady. You're going nowhere till you've promised." Without taking his eyes off her, he said to Percy, "She were walking along the top of that there wall. If I hadn't caught her, she'd have fell down on to Mill Road."

Lizzie saw Percy turn pale. He was nervous of heights, always had been. "It was a dare," she explained sullenly. "An' it was Mary Holden what dared me, not me her, an' I'm not letting her tell folk I'm afraid of owt, 'cos I'm not. An' — an' you're just a big bully, Sam Thoxby. Let go of me, will you?"

But the fingers were still digging into her shoulder and she couldn't shake them off, though her brother let go of her when she pushed at him again.

Percy turned to his other sister, still hovering nearby. "You should have run to fetch someone when this started, our Eva."

"We don't tell on one another." She hunched her shoulders and walked off down the street.

Lizzie glared up at Percy. Same features as Eva, same dark wavy hair — but he always looked worried about something, sighing over his tea, poring over his books. She knew he was a good son, because people were always saying so, but she just wished he wasn't so soft.

"If you don't promise me an' Sam not to do it again," his voice sounded thin and weary, "I'll have to tell Mam about this. Or Dad."

Tears came into Lizzie's eyes. She was always in trouble with Mam and Percy knew it, though Eva was Mam's pet. And their dad worked so hard at the brewery he was tired out by evening and didn't need extra worries. But if she promised — and she always kept her promises, always — Mary Holden would crow at her and goad her. "I hate you, our Percy!"

"Promise!" Sam gave her another little shake.

"Oh, all right, then. I promise I won't do it again." They let her go, but she waited till she was a few paces away before yelling, "Yer a pair of silly bloody sheep, you two are! So there!"

"I'll wash your mouth out with soap when you come home, Lizzie Kershaw!" Percy roared, ashamed of being shown up in front of his workmate.

She danced around, pulling faces at them. "Ya, ya, ya! You'll have to catch me first, won't you?" And when he took a step towards her she was off again, running down Bobbin Lane, as lithe and graceful as a young colt Sam had seen frolicking in a field on the last works picnic.

Percy sighed and turned to the man next to him. Sam was older, twenty-three to his twenty, and towered over him by a good six inches, for none of the Kershaws was tall. "Thanks for stoppin' her."

Sam watched the child disappear round a corner, admiration on his face. "She's a lively one."

"Too lively. There's only Dad can keep her in order an' he's been so tired lately. That new manager at the brewery's a right slave-driver."

"Your Lizzie's going to be pretty, too, when she grows up." Sam frowned. "No, not pretty exactly, but she'll attract the fellows, you'll see." She attracted him, if truth be told, for all her scrawny child's body. She had such bright eyes and she was so alive compared to other lasses. He had seen her several times lately; seen and stopped to watch.

"Our Lizzie? You've got to be joking! It's Eva as is the pretty one."

Sam looked at him thoughtfully. Everyone knew that Percy Kershaw was as soft as butter and a worrier. You couldn't help taking to him, though. He'd do anything to help you and was well respected at the works, knew his job better than most and was studying to learn more at night classes. "Come an' have a drink, lad. We need one after that."

"Thanks, but I can't." He'd have loved to go into the warmth and bustle of the pub after a hard day's work, especially with a big confident fellow like Sam, but Percy didn't allow himself luxuries like beer at the moment. He had to watch every farthing if he was to save enough money to go to Technical School part-time next year. Mr. Pilby himself had given permission for Percy to work part-time in order to do that. It was all arranged.

"The drink's on me," Sam offered. "I had a win on the horses."

But Percy was stubborn as well as soft. "No. Thanks all the same, but I couldn't afford to buy you one back, an' I prefer to pay my own way."

"Just a half, then. I don't like drinking alone." Sam took a grip on his companion's arm and led him firmly, still protesting, into the Hare and Hounds. They passed a woman with soft dark hair and green eyes, and for a moment he was reminded of Lizzie. But this woman's eyes were dull and she was slouching along.

As he chuckled at the memory of the little lass spitting fury at him, Sam knew suddenly that he wanted her. Not now, but later. He didn't lust after children, and for all her lively wits Lizzie was a child still, but when she grew up — ah, then he'd be waiting for her. Something in her wild, defiant nature appealed to him, as other girls' flattery and admiring glances never did. He'd enjoy taming her, wooing her first and then mastering her, as all women loved to be mastered. Marrying her, perhaps. Yes, that idea pleased him. He didn't want his sons mothered by a whining fool like that other lass. And Sam was going to have sons, lots of them.

He waited to be served, brow creased in thought. The Kershaws were well respected in Southlea, the district at the bottom end of the low hill across which the small town of Overdale sprawled. Mrs. Kershaw was a cut above her neighbours, for she'd been a housemaid to the gentry before she married, and she talked better and ran her home better than most. So would her daughters, with her training, which would suit Sam just fine. He had ambitions for his future. Oh, yes. Big ambitions.

He grinned as he paid for the two half-pints and pondered on his tactics. He was about to become Percy Kershaw's best mate, and all for the sake of that cheeky little brat! And he'd better soft-soap the mother a bit, as well. He enjoyed making folk do what he wanted, setting his sights on something and getting it, too. He hadn't done badly for a whore's bastard — he scowled briefly as he thought of the mother he'd never met, but heard of, oh, aye, heard of and been taunted about many a time.

The two young men's glasses of light ale were only half-empty when someone came pounding into the pub. "There's been an accident down at the brewery!" he gasped, then his eyes fell on Percy, sitting at the back, glass halfway to his mouth. "Oh, you're there, Percy!" His voice became gentle. "Eeh, I'm that sorry, lad. It's your dad, I'm afraid."

* * *

Several weeks before the accident at the brewery, another man had died suddenly in a comfortable house on the edge of the moors. Bonamy Harper had been haranguing his two daughters, a pastime in which he often indulged, playing out all the tricks of a domestic tyrant and shouting at them for their extravagance — though indeed they had no capacity for extravagance with the meagre amount he gave them on which to keep house. Suddenly he clutched his throat, his face turned an even darker red than usual and he keeled over.

It was a moment before they bent over him and then, after another moment of startled disbelief, the main emotion each felt was relief.

The next morning the family lawyer paid a hurried visit to warn them to keep the funeral costs down. "There are debts to be cleared, you see, due to some rather rash investments your father made."

"How much is owed?" Emma asked.

"Several hundred pounds, I'm afraid." Mr. Peelby inclined his head towards Blanche. "Your annuity from your godmother is safe, of course, Miss Harper.

However, that only amounts to about fifty pounds a year ... Um, you'll have to sell this house and its contents, I'm afraid, but I can tell you now they'll barely cover the debts. You can stay on here till it's sold, but don't remove anything apart from your personal effects — though you can give your father's clothes away, if you like. None of the debtors will want those."

Blanche, white and trembling, clutched at her sister's hand. "But — where shall we live?"

"With your aunt, I suppose. I'm sure Mrs. Reed will offer you a home when she hears how things stand."

Emma groaned. "Oh, no! Not Aunt Gertrude." For their sole surviving relative was as domineering as their father had been.

Mr. Peelby spoke somewhat impatiently. "Times are hard. Poorer people lack work and whole families are starving. You're lucky to have someone to turn to."

Immediately he'd left, Emma turned to Blanche. "Whatever happens, I'm not going to live with Aunt Gertrude. You can if you wish, but I absolutely refuse."

"But what else can we do?"

"I don't know, but I'll find something. For a start, I'm not going to give Father's clothes away, I'm going to sell them. Even if they're only worth a pound or two, it'll help."

"But how ...?"

Emma pondered for a moment, then said slowly, "Sam Thoxby will probably know what to do. I'll send him a message."

"But the debts ..."

"Are Father's, not ours."

* * *

That evening, when Sam turned up at the house he'd been in and out of since the days his gran had done the rough charring work for Mrs. Harper, he said the wardrobe of fine suits and hats was worth something and agreed to sell the stuff. Emma was a little older than he was and Blanche older still. They and their mother had been kind to him as a lad, feeding him leftovers and giving him old scarves and gloves of Mr. Harper's to keep him warm in winter. He never forgot a kindness because he hadn't known many. Mind you, that wouldn't stop him turning a penny out of this.


Excerpted from Our Lizzie by Anna Jacobs. Copyright © 1999 Anna Jacobs. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Our Lizzie 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1908 when she was twelve, Lizzie Kershaw sees her pleasant world end with the accidental death of her father at the brewery he worked at. The family finds different ways to bring in income including two borders, the Harper sisters, who have shared a similar loss of income due to a death. Though young, Lizzie accepts a job as her part to make money. Sam Thoxby takes advantage of the grieving Kershaw and Harper families though he pretends to be a Good Samaritan providing help, but he has hidden agendas. In the case of the Kershaws, he plans to one day marry Lizzie when she is of an age because he likes her spirit.

Over the next few years, Lizzie¿s mother is mean and viscous towards Lizzie culminating with her forcing her to marry Sam. He is physically abusive so she learns when it is worth the beatings to challenge him. When he goes off to war, she takes employment at a munitions factory where she begins to fall in love with someone else. However, Sam still looms on the horizon and divorce is unacceptable.

This is a strong historical character study that includes a finely developed ensemble. The story line enables the audience to observe life in the first quarter of the twentieth century as Anna Jacobs provides a powerful spotlight. Sam is too sly and devious so that some of the tension between he and a rival upon his return from the war is abated. Still OUR LIZZIE is a tremendous historical fiction that escorts the audience into an up front and close view of life in England almost a century ago.

Harriet Klausner