In 1948 Lawrie Matthews alights from HMS Windrush in a London still reeling from the aftershocks of the war and hostile to its newest citizins. Evie has lived in London all her life but the colour of her skin has always set her apart - until she meets Lawrie. Set against a backdrop of Soho jazz clubs and south London streets, it paints a vivid picture of what life was really like for the Windrush generation. Fans of Andrea Levy's Small Island will love it.
Louise Hare’s title, This Lovely City (HQ £12.99), although a quote from its main character, is also a questionable assertion. The London that Lawrie Matthews encounters after arriving from Jamaica in 1948, aboard the Empire Windrush, is war-damaged, shabby and often openly hostile to black immigrants such as him. At the end of the novel’s first chapter he responds to a woman’s cry of distress and discovers a drowned baby. Far from being hailed a hero, he becomes the police’s chief suspect.
This heartfelt story follows jazz musician Laurie Matthews, whose dreams of England, after arriving on Empire Windrush, are shattered when he's arrested for a crime he didn't commit. Brimming with nostalgia for what it was like for those who arrived in the UK after the second world war.
In her atmospheric debut novel, Louise Hare transports us to post-war London. It's 1950 and jazz musician Lawrie, fresh off the Empire Windrush, has taken lodgings and fallen in love with Evie, the girl next door. Touring the music halls of Soho by night, by day he works as a postman. But when he makes a terrible discovery, he becomes the prime suspect. It soon becomes clear that the new arrivals from the Carribean may not be as welcome as they'd been led to believe.
The body of a baby is discovered on Clapham Common and the innocent Lawrie becomes the target of cruel Inspector Rathbone.
Whose baby is it, though? Suddenly every character has a secret but, a mistress of suspense, Hare keeps us guessing to the last page.
I loved the post-war atmosphere: bombed, broken London as visual metaphor for the story’s violence and racism. Can Lawrie and Evie face down these ugly attitudes armed only with hope and youth?
Louise Hare’s debut novel pairs a poignant tale of young love and shameful prejudice with a twisting mystery, all embedded in a historical moment with keen contemporary resonance. Tantalising ingredients to be sure, yet it’s her steady, calm prose and the animating authenticity of her material that make it so hard to resist. The book is set largely in Brixton, south London, where Lawrie has settled along with many of his fellow Windrush passengers. “Welcome Home!” read the newspaper headline that greeted them at Tilbury – a welcome that’s turned out to be at best threadbare, at worst viciously xenophobic.