This Lovely City
By Louise Hare
Published by Harper Collins
What it’s about?
The drinks are flowing. The music’s playing. But the party can’t last.
London, 1950. With the Blitz over and London still rebuilding after the war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Arriving from Jamaica aboard 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, while crossing a misty common, 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, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which 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.
What I think:
I was so excited to be asked to be part of this blog tour as This Lovely City is one of the most anticipated books of the spring.
Firstly – the cover. It’s gorgeous! This is a book that is designed to stand out on a shelf!
This is book is social history, a murder mystery and a love story all rolled into one.
Set in 1950, Lawrie is part of the first wave of immigrants to arrive in England from the Caribbean on the Windrush. Invited to rebuild post-war Britain, they are greeted with banners reading “Welcome Home!” But despite their British passports, they are very much seen as outsiders. They struggle to find jobs and accommodation and London is not always the welcoming city they had been led to expect.
Londoner Evie knows what it is like to be an outsider. Mixed race, and born to a single mother, Evie has struggled to be accepted. She is excited about the Windrush arrival and the expansion of the black community.
Her relationship with Lawrie is quite lovely. They are both smitten and their courtship is slow and respectful. But both of them are hiding secrets.
The discovery of a dead baby is horrific and highlights the tragic steps that some women were forced to take at a time when they were often ostracized for having a child out of wedlock.
It’s easy to see the 1950s through the glamour of Hollywood fashions. But the reality is that life in post-war Britain was hard. The city has been destroyed and rebuilding is only just beginning. Rationing is still in place, opportunities for women are limited and racism is commonplace and brutal. The way the black characters are treated by the police makes for uncomfortable reading and does make you wonder how much has really changed.
The story unfolds slowly through the time shifts between 1948 and 1950, letters and newspaper articles describing the investigation. The atmospheric London of the novel is a much smaller and more claustrophobic place. People know each other and mind each other’s business. Gossip and tension spread quickly and the small Caribbean population finds themselves at the centre of scandal that threatens them all.
The “whodunnit” ending is not really a shock to the reader, but the way the story unfolds is beautiful and tragic. I was rooting for Evie and Lawrie from the beginning as despite the many obstacles in their way they are clearly meant to be together.
Thank you so much to Harper Collins for including me in the tour and sending me a copy of This Lovely City. It was published yesterday and I really recommend it ⭐⭐⭐⭐