An atmospheric and utterly compelling debut novel about a Jamaican immigrant living in postwar London, This Lovely City shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects — but that even in the face of anger and fear, there is always hope.
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.
|Publisher:||House of Anansi Press Inc|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
LOUISE HARE is a London-based writer and editor with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. In 2016, her short story “The Odyssey of Dee Lennox” was shortlisted for the Just Write Creative Writing Competition, and in 2017 she was a finalist for the prestigious Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. This Lovely City is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
He cycled back the way he’d come, recognizing the woman he’d seen with the terrier as he drew close to Eagle Pond, but the dog was nowhere to be seen. There was something strange about the way she was moving, and he found himself slowing down. She was pacing up and down in front of the pond, looking for something. Her gait was lopsided, and, when she drew closer, he saw that her face was wet from tears that were blinding her. She didn’t notice Lawrie until the last moment, suddenly aiming towards him and coming up short as she took him in properly. She held herself rigid, her mouth gasping for air that her lungs didn’t seem to want to accept.
“Ma’am?” Lawrie swung his leg and dismounted, making his movements slow so that she didn’t spook. “You all right? Can I help you?”
She looked over her shoulder but turned back to him, fixing her eyes on his uniform. Whatever she’d seen was more frightening than one skinny black man. And there was no one else in sight. “You — you’re … a postman?” Her tongue tripped as she spoke.
“Yes, ma’am. Do you need help?”
She nodded and pointed in the direction she’d come from, a ragged sob creasing her body.
He couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary at first. There was the pond, and there he spied the terrier. The small dog was soaked through. Barking urgently at him, it ran back towards the water.
“The pond.” The woman squeezed out the words, and he noticed now that her hands were filthy, her coat spattered with mud.
“There’s something in the pond?”
It was useless. She had begun to shiver, her teeth actually chattering as shock took hold. Lawrie laid his bike down on the grass and headed towards the pond on foot. The dog was still barking in a fury, running laps between the edge of the pond and the path.
“What you got, boy?”
The dog splashed into the water, checking back to make sure he was being followed. There was a bundle there, a dirty blanket that once had been white. Lawrie crouched by the edge next to a smaller set of footprints that must have belonged to the woman. It didn’t look like much, this wad of sodden wool, but that didn’t stop fear from squeezing his chest tight as he reached out with his right hand, the palm of his left sinking into freezing mud as he tried to keep his balance.
He strained his arm and caught an inch of fabric between two fingers. Pulling gently, the bundle moved closer and he grabbed a tighter hold. The wool was heavy with water. White and yellow embroidered flowers peeked out from beneath the pond filth. Daisies. When he lifted it the bundle was heavier than he’d anticipated, but it wasn’t the weight that sent him crashing to the ground — only sheer luck landing him onto the bank rather than into the water. His heart pounded his ribs so hard that he glanced down at his chest, expecting to see it burst out through his coat, scattering buttons onto the ground.
The blanket lay there on the grass, the bundle coming apart. A baby’s arm had escaped, along with a shock of dark curly hair and a glimpse of a cheek. It could have been a doll, but one touch had been enough to convince him that it wasn’t. The hand was frozen stiff but the skin gave as his fingers had brushed against it.
Someone had left a baby in the pond to die. A baby whose skin was as dark as Lawrie’s.
What People are Saying About This
“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. Tantalizing ingredients to be sure, yet it’s her steady, calm prose, and the animating authenticity of her material that make [This Lovely City] so hard to resist.” Guardian“Poignant and authentic . . . [Louise Hare’s] steady, calm prose and the animating authenticity of her material make it so hard to resist.” Observer“Tenderly evokes the experiences of the Windrush generation in postwar London.” Independent“This Lovely City tells the story of a group of people searching for a place to belong and discovering the power of persistence and hope to carry them through.” Booklist“Hare’s absorbing narrative builds a compelling portrait of immigrants struggling to belong to a country that needs but doesn’t really want them . . . A must read for fans of Zadie Smith and Call the Midwife.” Kirkus Reviews“Full of life and love, This Lovely City is a tender, at times heart-breaking depiction of a city at once familiar and unrecognizable. It made my heart soar.” Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars“Superb, compelling storytelling, beautifully drawn characters and atmosphere that’s deeply immersive.” Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange“In this riveting and incisive murder mystery set in postwar London, Louise Hare looks at race and belonging with a poignancy that is reminiscent of Samuel Selvon and other émigré writers of the Windrush generation. A brilliant debut.” Rabindranath Maharaj, author of Fatboy Fall Down“I loved, loved, loved it, and desperately wanted things to work out for Lawrie and Evie.” Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love“This Lovely City is a beguiling, atmospheric, and important novel, with wonderful, memorable characters and a vital message about love, loyalty, and hope.” Caroline Lea, author of The Glass Woman“A compelling account of starting over.” Sun“[A] mistress of suspense, Hare keeps us guessing to the last page. I loved the postwar atmosphere: bombed, broken London as a visual metaphor for the story’s violence and racism.” Daily Mail“A timely first novel of real promise. Confidently written, compellingly plotted and atmospheric in its portrayal of postwar London . . . A twisty delight, offering a timely illumination of enduring cultural tensions” Mail on Sunday“Paints a vivid picture of what life was really like for the Windrush generation. Fans of Andrea Levy’s Small Island will love it.” Red“This debut is a joy to devour. The characters are beautifully drawn. The tender, compelling storytelling is immersive and atmospheric. I believe Hare is a major new talent who delivers a vital message about love, loyalty, and hope.” Platinum“This hotly anticipated debut offers a vivid portrait of the immigrant experience in postwar London.” Sunday Times“Beautifully told . . . heartwarming, heartbreaking, and wonderfully atmospheric . . . This Lovely City is truly one lovely book.” Heat“You’ll root for Lawrie and Evie and won’t fail to notice the timely message of Hare’s beautifully-told tale.” Cosmopolitan“Hare’s enthralling novel pulls off the rare trick of being a clever murder mystery, an evocative portrayal of Windrush London, and a genuinely touching love story.” I“An exciting ride . . . I demolished it in two sittings.” Daily Record“Heartfelt . . . brimming with nostalgia.” Prima“You’ll be rooting for the pair from start to finish.” Glamour“Poignant and compelling.” Hello!“A top-notch book in every way.” NB Magazine“Expect to be obsessed . . . [A book] you need to know about.” Good Housekeeping“A tale to wring the heart and make the blood boil, swirling with postwar gloom, illuminated by the shining lights of Lawrie and Evie.” SAGA“A thought-provoking and imaginative debut that conjures up the experiences of the Windrush generation in postwar London. Heartbreaking but full of hope.” Woman&Home“Louise Hare writes so effortlessly. [This Lovely City] was a joy to read.” Woman’s Weekly