Set in a farming community in the Karoo and in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, A Life To Live is the story of Nel, a farm girl who leaves home to find work in the city so that she can support her family during the years of the Great Depression. She takes a room in a rundown boarding house and is thrown among its noisy, shiftless inhabitants who move like detritus on a stagnant pool of poverty, drunkenness and decay. But Nel lives her life as best she can, honestly and with fortitude. She marries Piet, whose feckless ways ruin her hopes of achieving a decent life for both of them. When Piet dies Nel is destitute and she returns to the Karoo, dependant for the last years of her life on the bleak charity of her youngest sister, who has married a wealthy farmer. The reality of this novel is laced with humour and Burgess's skilful pen brings the characters to life in a powerful and moving way.