Cover Image: This Lovely City

This Lovely City

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this book but it failed to make the impact on me that I think was intended. The story deals with issues of race and immigration in 1950's London and half of the book follows Lawrie, a Windrush immigrant from Jamaica. The other half follows Evie, a mixed race British women. Throughout the book their lives intertwine in various ways - mostly centred around the death of a baby which Lawrie is unfortunate enough to discover. I loved the social commentary on race within this book but I feel like it could have explored issues of gender more within Evie’s narrative. There were some serious issues touched upon which could have been more in depth. The story was interesting and the writing really transported the reader to the streets and jazz bars of 1950s London. A good read.

This book was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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I  received an ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review. This is a well written book about the early experiences of the Windrush immigrants set into a fictional narrative. This has a storyline which draws you in and good characterisation although the police leave much to be desired. I enjoyed it . as the blurb says a charming rood. Great for a rainy day but I am not sure that it deserves the ratings it is getting. Certainly the mystery of what happened to the baby is very predictable.
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This Lovely City by Louise Hare shocked me in its exposing of the deeply inhuman attitude to and treatment of the West Indian immigrants, invited to come to London after the war to make a new home for themselves and rebuild the motherland. Instead they find they are “housed” underground in cramped, unhygienic quarters with little chance of work from a racist discriminatory society and work places. Lawrie’s reflection that: 
“People looked and decided what he was without knowing a single thing about him. “ summarises his and Evie’s  struggle throughout the book.  At times I found the book a bit slow but I really didn’t join the dots. Not what I expected (and all the better for that). I would love to hear Laurie play that clarinet and have a cuppa with Evie and Delia. Rathbone, however,  oh my word! He epitomises all that was wrong and that you just hope and pray has changed for a better, fairer, more humane society. Louise Hare has produced a great book which highlights our failings but does so alongside the possibilities for learning and being better human beings. Mrs Riley, Bert, Arthur, & Delia are some of the real heroes, they are amongst the best of us
Four stars for this one from me
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I loved how evocative this book is of the Windrush era. Post-war London erupts out of the page in a glorious swell of music, love and life. It's a vivacious love story that also shines a light on the prejudices within us, and the tragic consequences of those prejudices. Fantastic writing, vibrant characters and a story full of love and hope. Highly recommended.
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Lawrie is not long off the Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks. He more or less works around the clock as a musician and postman. While he is out making a special delivery he comes upon a woman in distress, she has just found an infant near a pond, and so begins the attempt to discredit and blame Lawrie. An absolutely innocent Lawrie.

Lawrie is targeted because he is a dark skinned man. Itt doesn't matter that he was there per chance and he helped the woman, as far as the police are concerned he is the culprit. The police officer tries to fit the person around the crime, and whilst doing so Lawrie takes a kicking.

People start to gossip and in an attempt to take the finger of blame off themselves they start pointing said finger at others. People like bi-racial Evie, who has plenty of secrets to hide, despite the picture of innocence she puts on display. Is she capable of dumping an infant and leaving it to its fate?

For those of us who try to be aware of our white privilege and the systemic racism that is a shadow on our society, this is quite often a difficult read. I can't even fathom discarding a child because of its skin colour or treating someone who isn't white as if they were a lesser person than myself. I was raised to regard everyone as equals, but a wise woman taught me that isn't sufficient - you have to be aware of the oppression, the racism and the inequality to be able to do something about it.

It's historical fiction with strong topics of racism, oppression, police brutality and assault. Hare doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the reality of the Windrush generation and their experience in post-war Britain. It is also a relevant topic in our day and age, as the aforementioned generation and their contributions are still met with criticism and opposition.

It's certainly an emotional listen, which is narrated exceptionally by Theo Solomon and Karise Yansen, as they do the words of Hare justice.
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"'What are you staring at?' she asked, a twinkle in her eye.
He grinned back. 'How can I not stare when I'm sitting opposite the most beautiful girl in this lovely city?'"

This Lovely City is the story of Lawrie Matthews, who settles in South London after arriving on the Empire Windrush in 1948. Two years later he has a steady job and plays jazz in the clubs of London with his friends. He's also fallen madly in love with Evie, who lives next door and he's trying to pluck up the courage to ask her to marry him.

One day, whilst cycling on his way home from work, he takes a detour through Clapham Common and discovers something that will change his life forever. As tensions rise, fingers get pointed at the newest arrivals to the community, including Lawrie. He soon comes to realise that the 'welcome home' sign as he arrived to England was not as welcoming as he once thought.
This Lovely City explores race and racism in 1950s London, showing a part of history so relevant today, especially with the aftermath of the Windrush scandal. But it does also show the importance of love, kindness and friendship.
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I enjoyed this a lot. Good writing, interesting characters and a good plot with a consistent pace made the book hard to put down. 
Definitely recommended. 
Thanks a lot to NG and the publisher for this copy.
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My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I'll throw it out there, probably the best historical novel I've ever read. And it's based after WW2 has finished (only slightly) This is nothing like you expect from the cover and tackles some real dark issues. I am so happy I was on the tour for this one and would urge everyone to add it to their wishlist. .
Thank you @hqstories for this one in return for an honest review
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A wonderful atmospheric story set in the early 1950,s following a group of Jamaicans who came to the UK on the Empire Windrush to answer the call of the motherland.Believing they would make their fortune they soon find out that this is not the case and how prejudiced society is against them
 This book deals with social history of the time which includes colour prejudice and issues of mixed relationships.
At the centre of this is a beautiful love story
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The Lovely City by Louise Hare
Published by @hqstories 💛
Set in 1940s England. It follows 2 main characters- a young Jamaican man who has arrived in the UK on the wind rush & a young mixed race woman who is being brought up my her white single mum.
It is a take on racism, discrimination,  suspicion & violence.
People who are not know. The unknown gives people the feeling of suspicion. It falls on those who have come to the UK to build a better life for themselves and their family.
However because they appear different & let’s be honest due to the colour of their skin the people of London act with caution. 💛
It isn’t an easy subject and yet it has been written well. The plot is strong and characters are well rounded and written.
Recommended read.
Out Now
Thank you to both NetGalley and HQ publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review
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I LOVED this novel more than I expected to. Evie and Lawrie are wonderful characters and I was rooting for them as a couple while empathising with them individually too. The ending shocked me and I felt like I was kept on my toes from start to finish. This novel felt so layered and complex, the musical references and the ode to London's 1950s jazz club scene and significant landmarks added something extra to the book. It was great to read about the struggles and challenges of a community that I'm connected to as a person of West Indian heritage. While this novel is full of love and hope, the author doesn't sugarcoat how difficult life was made for the West Indian immigrants to travelled to Britain from 1948. The hype surrounding this book is well deserved, and the assertions about it being one of the best titles of 2020 is 100% accurate. This Lovely City is a special book and Louise Hare has outdone herself.
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Louise Hare has written a beautiful yet heartbreaking debut. I had no idea this novel would have such a depth of emotion, I was expecting a fun and upbeat historical fiction but I received something much more!

This Lovely City tells the story of a couple called Lawrie & Ellie. Lawrie is a postman by day and a musician by night hoping to save enough money for a small wedding and a honeymoon. I enjoyed reading about these enchanting characters from the very first chapter, their romance was so sweet and I was rooting for them throughout the whole book.

I really enjoyed how this novel was written. The story was told through the characters present day actions and also through flashbacks of the days and months straight after Lawrie's arrival in England. Secrets were revealed through the flashbacks while the characters struggled with accusations in the present day, with everything crashing together in a shocking finale.

I would most definitely recommend this brilliant book to everyone! This book tackled the racism following the generation of Jamaican people who were 'welcomed' to Britain after World War Two. It was a very compelling read that I could not put down until the mystery was solved!
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I was lucky enough to attend HQ New Voices launch event, back in February and managed to get a copy of the wonderful This Lovely City then and see Louise speak about why she'd written the book. She said it was because growing up she would have loved to read a book like this, but books about coloured or mixed race people didn't exist. So, she wrote one.

And it is joyous, you can feel the everyday struggle of post war rationing still experienced by Evie and Mrs Coleridge, the shortage of any luxuries. That and the threat of losing their jobs for the most ridiculous of reasons, often no reason at all, at any moment was always constant. The bigotry and always being referred to as a collective 'your sort' and constantly getting the blame.

Lawrie Matthews came ashore from The Empire Windrush ship, that docked bringing migrants to the UK, due to the war and lack of labour to fulfil the job roles - cleaners, manual labour, nursing jobs that were available, and yet the problems Lawrie encountered trying to get a job where taking its toll on him. He would have loved to earn enough playing music at night, that mean he didn't have to get a job, but that was dream that wouldn't pay the bills. He eventually managed to get a job as a Postman, with the help of Rose Armstong, a wanton married woman who acquaints herself with Lawrie and is only too keen to show him around.

Evie Coleridge - the prettiest girl in This Lovely City catches his eye and he hers, after a few bumps in the road they start to go out on regular dates, each Tuesday to the pictures. Evie's Ma, is waiting for Lawrie to declare his intentions, and is saving up to do so properly by running a delivery, for a friend, after work one day he finds the body of a baby in a pond and the Police believe he was responsible. All manner of interviews and questioning of 'their sort' occurs. Nearly everyone is deemed guilty by association. And it takes some delving to find the real culprit.

All the lies and deceit come spilling out and with it real truths and hurt. A life time of lost love and families destroyed. Evie and Lawrie can only watch as everything they knew isn't what they thought.

A uplighting and evocative book it is so incredibly written you wouldn't believe its a debut from the clearly talented Louise Hare. The scenes set in the dance halls are so that you can hear Lawrie playing his clarinet along with the band as Jonny croons and the band play. Feel the smoky atmosphere, and taste the rum. Louise's use of words and language excel any preconceived ideas of what this book may bring.
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Laurie has come over to England from Jamaica thinking he would be able to make his fortune only to find that the county that claimed to be so desperate for workers, in fact, only wanted white men. Evie, who has been the only person of colour in her area for as long as she can remember, is excited by the arrival of windrush as ‘she was no longer the odd one out’. The two meet and fall in love but as always things are never straight forward...

It was utterly captivating, moving and thought provoking. In essence it is a post war murder mystery with a romantic element. The setting was described in such vivid detail that I could really picture it and I found the dual perspective engaging. Some parts were hard to listen to as it was upsetting think of how badly people were treated when they had just come here in the hope of making a better life for themselves. but

The audio was brilliantly done and I would listen to more books narrated by Theo Solomon, Karise Yansen and there was beautiful jazz music played between each chapter which really added to the time.

This author is definitely one to watch and one I will be adding to my auto-buy list.
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There is a quote from Enoch Powell's infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech at the start of This Lovely City and although set before his words caused a political storm, the inclusion is a stark reminder that the Caribbean community who came to Britain after the war immediately faced suspicion and accusations despite having been invited to the 'Motherland' by a country which desperately needed help to rebuild. It should also be uncomfortably obvious that even now, this is still a nation which often seeks to present a 'hostile environment' to those it deems as others, including the recent shameful treatment of the Windrush Generation.
That same generation are the focus of This Lovely City, with Lawrie having left Jamaica on the Empire Windrush in the belief that Britain would welcome him with open arms. On arrival, however, he discovered that the country hadn't even prepared somewhere for them to live, beyond makeshift accommodation in Clapham tube station. The natural homesickness which perhaps inevitably arises when moving to a new country - especially one as damp, bomb-damaged and ration-weary as post-war Britain is exacerbated further by his struggle to find a job amidst subtle and overt racism. However, as the novel's timeline switches between 1948 and 1950,  it becomes apparent that he eventually does begin to find a place for himself, securing a job as a postman and a loving relationship with Evie, the girl-next-door.
It's a chilling sentence then which informs us that he will question whether the grin he wore earlier in the day was a jinx which resulted in him being sat in a police station under suspicion of a terrible crime. It soon transpires that a simple twist of fate which led to him helping a distressed woman with a tragic discovery means that his skin colour places him as a suspect while she is only ever regarded as a witness. The local community - including the police  - are all too ready to use the tragedy as an excuse to attack the newcomers, both verbally and physically, and the threat of imminent violence constantly hangs over the heads of Lawrie and his fellow immigrants. The dark mystery threatens the relationship between Lawrie and Evie but the sweet romance between the pair ensures This Lovely City is consistently a captivating, rather touching read. It is always obvious that both are concealing secrets from one another, with the flashbacks to 1948 gradually revealing what they are hiding and the truth is heartbreaking.
If Lawrie's troubles reflect what life was like for a young black man recently moved to the UK then mixed-race Evie's experiences demonstrate not only the barriers and difficulties facing all women in the 1950s but also the misogynoir encountered by Bame women of the time; including the prejudicial behaviour of  her peers and teachers at school, the various demands or dismissals of her body and the assumptions about her morals. Her own story becomes even more painful when compared to that of her mother who is about as complicated a figure as I can remember ever reading in a book. She is frequently a domineering, coercive presence in her daughter's life and yet there are moments where she own struggles and her reasons why she behaves as she does reveal an altogether more sympathetic - if still flawed - side to her personality.
There are still too many shameful incidences of racism in the present day of course, with the Windrush Scandal being of a particularly poignant relevance and there are many scenes in the novel which should upset, anger or shame readers. However, although this is a vividly intense portrayal of a rapidly changing time in Britain and is rightly critical of the the behaviour and attitudes of many members of the community (and nation as a whole), there is still a sense of hope here, whether through the honest, deep love felt between Lawrie and Evie or through the benefit of hindsight which provides us with the knowledge that, despite its failings the country now is very different to how it was back then. I absolutely loved This Lovely City; it is a beautifully written, engaging and important book which grants a vibrant, authentic voice to the Bame community who deserve to have their experiences and stories given their rightful place as a part of British history.
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Interesting story starting in 1948 when coloured people from the Commonwealth countries started arriving in Britain. This is about the dynamics of their lives, a complicated family relationship and the death of a baby. An enjoyable read.
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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  and Netgalley for advanced copy in return for an honest review.
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Thanks so much to HQ and NetGalley for letting me read This Lovely City in advance! Oddly enough that was the second book I read in a row set just after the Second World War in London, and the book I read afterwards was Red at the Bone which has similar themes - isn't it odd the way even planned-out reading sometimes chimes so well?

This Lovely City follows Lawrie Matthews, a postman, musician and a Jamaican immigrant living in London in 1950. He's in love with Evie Coleridge who lives next door to him in Brixton - she's a typist, and the mixed-race daughter of an often cruel white mother and a black father she's never known. Everything changes when Lawrie is at the scene of a crime in the pond at Clapham Common - a black baby is unearthed from the reeds, and all of the immigrants in Brixton immediately come under suspicion.

At times I thought this book became a little sensationalist and the characters a bit too stereotypically nasty and good but other than that I definitely enjoyed this book! Lawrie and Evie are both really nice characters that it's easy to root for - although I wish I'd known how young he was at the beginning of the book, for some reason I thought he was older - and Louise Hare is very skilled at plotting and unearthing revelations at exactly the right moment. I also really enjoy reading about this period of time, and the historical detail felt perfect. I was less interested in the crime than I was in the historical period and reading about the experience of Windrush immigrants, but that's definitely down to personal preference. 3.5 🌟 - an enjoyable and entertaining historical novel.
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I was so excited to be gifted an eARC of This Lovely City by HQ as it was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. And it didn’t disappoint. Beautifully evocative of the post-war years it tracks the stories of Lawrie and Evie via a murder mystery and through a look at the problems faced by the Windrush generation.

Lawrie’s story made my heart actually ache. Excitedly making a life in London after stepping off the Empire Windrush he finds himself fulfilling his dream of earning a small wage as a jazz clarinettist by night, and by day working as a local postman. He’s courting Evie, the girl next door, determined to win over her mother and ask for Evie’s hand in marriage. When out after his morning shift one day he makes a terrible discovery, it quickly becomes clear that suspicion is pointing squarely at him. And the consequent ripples are going to be felt far and wide.

I think what I loved most about this book is Lawrie’s character. He’s a little bit naive, an inherently kind soul but also flawed and his desire to be a total gentleman is adorable. His ‘proper’ courtship of Evie made me smile, while the problems that he runs into later in the novel made me want to hide him away and give him a cuddle. I didn’t warm to Evie to the same extent, but nevertheless I did want them to have a happy ending together.

The mystery element of the plot felt to me a little bit secondary to the love story, and to the fascinating and thought-provoking examination of issues surrounding integration and race following the arrival of the Empire Windrush’s passengers. It is a period of history that I’ll admit I knew very little about and I have felt compelled to go and research since finishing this book. 

Louise Hare’s writing is full of rich and detailed description, which managed to make me feel fully transported back to the late 40s and 1950s. The whole book is very atmospheric, so while I didnot find it to be the kind of read that I had to inhale in one sitting, I did wholeheartedly enjoy it and feel immersed when it was in my hands. It’s a hugely accomplished debut and I will be looking out for Hare’s next offering, without a doubt.
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A wonderful, evocative portrait of Afro-Caribbean existence in post-war London, told with immense heart. A crucial indictment of the insidious racism which exists, and has always existed, within our society, and its capacity to tear apart truly compelling characters. An utterly fabulous, engrossing read which I highly recommend!
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