About the Book
London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door.
Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and 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, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery.
As the local community rallies, fingers of blame point at those who were recently welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy that threatens to tear the city apart.
Immersive, poignant, and utterly compelling, Louise Hare’s debut examines the complexities of love and belonging, and teaches us that even in the face of anger and fear, there is always hope.
Format: Audiobook (10h 46m) Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 12th February 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction
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I listened to the audiobook version expertly narrated by Theo Solomon and Karise Yansen, both really capturing the Jamaican patois. The book alternates between 1948 and Lawrie’s arrival in England aboard the Empire Windrush from Jamaica, and 1950 which finds him working as a postman.
It becomes clear from the sections set in 1948 that he found a very different welcome from the one he expected. He and his fellow passengers are greeted not with open arms but placed in a cramped shelter and faced with overt racism as they seek employment. Only Rose, a volunteer at the shelter, offers any sign of friendship, but she has motives of her own. Then Lawrie meets Evie and their romance soon blossoms, although as the reader learns, Evie has secrets of her own. Anxious to raise sufficient money to marry Evie, he earns extra by transporting black market goods for his landlady’s son, Daniel Ryan plus occasional gigs playing clarinet in a jazz band.
I thought Lawrie was a wonderful character. He’s sincere, polite and his tenderness towards Evie is touching. The way he is treated by the police when he comes under suspicion for involvement in a crime is shocking.
The atmosphere of post-war bomb-damaged London is brilliantly evoked. With rationing still in place think spam fritters, fish paste sandwiches or, for a treat, egg and chips in a local cafe.
Part mystery, part love story, This Lovely City demonstrates London was anything but a lovely city for many black people. The book is a revealing insight into the stigma of illegitimacy and the prejudice faced by people of colour, in particular by the Windrush generation; sadly they have faced other injustices in recent years. The audiobook version provides a bonus final chapter that will get you tapping your feet.
In three words: Immersive, compelling, emotional
Try something similar: The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
About the Author
Louise Hare is a London-based writer and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Originally from Warrington, the capital is the inspiration for much of her work, including This Lovely City, which began life after a trip into the deep level shelter below Clapham Common. (Photo/bio credit: Goodreads author page)