This Lovely City by Louise Hare
Today I’m reviewing This Lovely City by Louise Hare, her debut novel published by HQ (Harper Collins). Louise is a London-based writer who was inspired to write This Lovely City after visiting a deep level shelter beneath Clapham Common.
1948, the Blitz is over and London is trying to piece itself together out of the rubble the war has left behind. Around this time, HMT Empire Windrush brings Jamaican’s to the UK, who had fought in the war, in search of better prospects and on the promise of a new life. When musician Lawrie Matthews step foot on British soil, he wasn’t prepared for the harsh realities of living in the UK. However, he beat the odds, finding work as a postman during the day and as a musician at night. Not only did he find lodgings with people he liked, but it was right next door to Evie, the woman he adored.
Although life is hard and Lawrie works all the hours he can, his word is turned upside down when he stops to ask a distressed woman if she is alright. The woman points to the nearby pond and there he discovers, wrapped in a hand-embroidered blanket, the body of a baby.
The police are called but once they realise the child is of mixed heritage, the lead detective sets his eyes on Lawrie, convinced he has something to do with the baby’s death. Before long, both Lawrie and Evie’s lives are under the microscope. They both have secrets to hide but could either of then have ever harmed the baby in the pond?
This Lovely City is a novel so packed full of charming characters you won’t want it to end. Lawrie steals your heart as the lead, a man trying to do his best but being pushed back every step of the way. And Evie, a young woman desperate for her past not to impact her current happiness and potential future with Lawrie.
Alternating between 1948 and 1950, the novel slowly reveals the secrets between them and how they are brought to the surface after the body of the baby is found.
The timeframe in which the novel is set makes a fascinating setting. The UK is just trying to get itself back in its feet after the war and although some are more open to people from other cultures, some turn on anyone with a different skin colour to their own. Louise Hare weaves in fictional letters and newspaper articles in between chapters to break up the structure, while also allowing her to add more background information and social commentary on the time. I really liked this approach as it gave you a more solid grounding in the story without having to include potentially unrealistic conversations between characters.
This Lovely City is a superbly heart-warming and thought-provoking story set in the underrepresented era in fiction of Windrush London. Louise Hare’s writing style is so fluid and easy to read that it comes across as completely effortless. I ended up devouring it in just a couple of sittings after only planning to read for half an hour, the writing and the characters completely lull you in. She brings to life post-war London in a vibrant and intoxicating way that I’ve not read before, and I adored it. Through their battles with love, shame and fitting in on the streets of London, you can’t help but fall in love with Lawrie and Evie. Whether you’re looking for a book group read, a cosy night in book, or even, at this point, a self-isolation book, please, please choose This Lovely City. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, you can thank me later!
If you liked This Lovely City by Louise Hare, you’d love The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
Thank you to HQ at Harper Collins for providing me with a review copy of this book.