Published: March 12th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Urban Fiction
The drinks are flowing.
The music is playing.
But the party can’t last.
With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.
Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery.
As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.
Atmospheric, poignant and compelling, Louise Hare’s debut shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects. But, also, that there is always hope.
This fabulous debut is not only great between the pages but it has a cover that just screams “read me.” Part love story, part coming-of-age and part crime novel, this fictional story also has a true story running through its pages; the story of the Jamaican men who travelled to England on the Windrush in the Summer of 1948 and their battle for acceptance and equality.
Told in dual timelines this is the story of immigrant Lawrie Matthews and Evie Coleridge, the girl next door that he’s in love with and also happens to be the only mixed race girl in the area. The pair are headed for marriage and, other than the daily racism they must navigate, life is good. But after Lawrie finds the body of a baby girl in the pond on Clapham Common everything changes. Lawrie finds himself the prime suspect in the case and trouble soon begins to seep into all areas of his life. As the press and public demand justice for the little girl, the city is divided, racial tensions rise and Lawrie and his friends find themselves more vulnerable than ever in the place they were told was their new home. Meanwhile, Lawrie’s discovery also threatens to uncover shameful secrets that were never meant to be revealed and could shatter their lives even further.
I’m a big fan of both historical and crime fiction so as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to read this book. Though the crime is introduced into the story early on, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of tension or suspense until later on and most of the time the story concentrated more on how being under suspicion, or being close to someone under suspicion, affected the characters in all areas of their lives. I liked this and felt that it gave the book a lot of heart that might have otherwise been missing. It also enabled important issues to be more visible in the story, rather than fading into the background.
The author’s wonderful storytelling and vivid imagery transported me to London in the late forties and early fifties. I could almost smell the smoke and hear the jazz band playing. I could see the grimy streets and feel the fear and loathing in the air. But what I loved most was the characters and community that the author created. Their authenticity immersed me in their world and helped me to feel connected to situations I never have or will experience. Lawrie was a kind, honest man who I quickly fell in love with. His good character added to the sense of injustice at what he went through after finding the baby as you really did get the sense he was the last person on earth who could do such a thing. He was the opposite of Rathborne, the racist and vile policeman in charge of the case, who was easily my least favourite character. Evie was a sweet, innocent young woman who longed to break free of her overbearing mother. I thought a lot about how hard it must have been for her being the only mixed race person, not knowing anyone else like herself and never really fitting in anywhere. I found myself furious at her mother for how she treated her and contributed to her pain at being different, thankful she’d found Lawrie and hoping they would overcome the obstacles and get their happy-ever-after.
This Lovely City is an atmospheric, affecting and thought-provoking debut. Deftly told, the story is steadily paced, building to a gradual crescendo as we approach the finale. I loved that there were things I found impossible to predict and I was certain I had the rest figured out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The storylines cleverly dovetailed and my jaw hit the floor as all was revealed. I would recommend this book and am excited to see what the author writes next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Louise Hare is a London based author. Her debut novel This Lovely City is due to be published by HQ (Harper Collins) on March 12th 2020 and House of Anansi (N. America) on April 7th 2020. She has an MA in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Birkbeck, University of London.
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