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 have 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.
This Lovely City, what a read! Set in post war London a city depleted of men and thus labour and bustling with the newly arrived immigrants off the Empire Windrush. London is vibrant but for the newly arrived, work is scarce and racism obvious. A scandal amplifies these issues and for Lawrie, trying to make a life in a city which he wrongly believed had streets paved with gold, life is tough.
This is part love story, part mystery while also being an exploration of south west London at a time when immigration was high, integration was poor and racism was rife. Shamefully this is a time period I know very little about and I liked this book as much for its gripping storyline as its ability to inform me. The characters were engaging and in the most part likeable and the book shone a light on some of the specific difficulties of the time.
The story was at times painful to read, in terms of the racism with language used and words expressed that I think would be shocking now. Still it raises the question of how much has changed and got me thinking about institutional racism and what it means for a young black man to be arrested and his likelihood of being treated in a fair and just manner.
There is much to this story set in a small but dynamic community but it flows well and is easy to read. Set between 1948 and 1950 the book jumps back periodically to when Lawrie arrived in the city with his peers, there is much to learn as they settle into their new life and mistakes are made along the way. The book is youthful with a cast of mainly young men, a group of musicians and a lively social life. At 380 pages I found it to be a fast read, easy to follow and absorbing.
Another great read in 2020 and another book I am recommending highly.
Thank you to HQ Stories for the gifting me the finished copy of this book.
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.