TW: racism, death of child, rape
Set in post-war Britain, after the arrival of the Empire Windrush, This Lovely City follows Lawrie as he navigates his new life in London. Lawrie has found a home, work and has fallen for his neighbour, Evie, but a terrible discovery is going to bring up secrets, bad feelings, and highlight that life in London is not what it was expected to be.
Thinking about the audiobook, I really enjoyed listening to this book and thought that the performances were great. I loved the use of jazz music and felt that added to the feel of the story and helped to set the scene.
Louise Hare creates the setting and social and political atmosphere of this novel really well. Not only does she look at the perspective of those who came to Britain on the Empire Windrush, but she builds a picture of post-war London and the effects that continued years later.
By giving chapters that look back at the past, to when Lawrie arrived in London, Hare shows what Lawrie’s initial expectations were and how they have changed over time, and she also portrays how people already in Britain responded to the arrival initially and years later.
Linked to this is the portrayal of the racism in Britain, and this novel uses a murder to bring in racism within the police and how accusation and suspicion is directed towards Lawrie and his friends. What I found clever about Hare’s depiction of racism is that she shows the subtleties of racism and the effects that it has.
There are lots of interesting and complex characters in the novel, and there are some great relationships between them. Seeing Lawrie and his friends and the way they support each other highlights that family can be chosen and formed by bonds, and friendship is definitely a strong part of the novel. Hare also shows us what it was like for various types of women at the time, including single mothers.
With Lawrie’s terrible discovery and the police investigation, we know that secrets and pasts are going to come to light and as we progress through the narrative, the characters are built and become more well-rounded because we see different sides to them and the events that have shaped them.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. Louise Hare skillfully creates character, setting and a plot that will keep you reading to uncover secrets.