This Lovely City is a historical fiction written by Louise Hare, a London-based writer.
The historical fiction is set in the late forties and in 1950. War is over and London is rebuilding. Some Jamaicans from the Windrush generation answer its call for labour and arrive in the city that is alive with possibilities. A young jazz musician, Lawrie Matthews is amongst them. Lawrie meets young Evie and ends up living next door to her. As the story unfolds, you meet Lawrie’s friends from the jazz band that plays music in Soho. Lawrie keeps a day job as a postman, runs errands for his landlady’s son and plays clarinet in the band when they are called upon to perform. His love for Evie is tested when certain facts unknown to him begin to unravel and Evie is not what he thinks she is. When a baby is found dead in the pond, Lawrie and his friends become the prime suspects because they are the new arrivals and also due to the skin colour of the victim. These new arrivals face prejudices from certain local citizens of the community but there is love and support within their community and also from the local friends they have made.
Lawrie happens to be cycling through the park when he helps out a woman who appears to be in distress only to be traumatized by what he finds in the pond. He is in his postman uniform and he has to make a delivery for his landlady’s son, Derek, otherwise he has no business to be in the vicinity of the Eagle Pond.
‘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 to the water.’
The woman points to the pond and starts to shiver.
Hare writes, ‘Whatever she’d seen was more frightening than one skinny black man. And there was no one else in sight.’
It is a baby whose skin is as dark as Lawrie’s.
The whole indignance of the incident is that the woman who first spots the suspicious bundle gets to walk away as she is immediately dismissed as a suspect but not Lawrie, who just happens to be at the scene at the wrong time.
Louise Hare is a compelling story teller and in her debut novel, This Lovely City, she has weaved a masterful story with excellent characterisation set in post-war London. These colourful characters include the Investigating Officer, Rathbone who simply wants to get to the bottom of the tragedy. The story is well crafted with prolific writing. This Lovely City is a good read. For most of these new arrivals, things do look up as they begin to call London their home but I find its ending a little disturbing and also sad that a certain person who should be brought to justice has got away. This kind of thing happens in real life and as the saying goes, life is fiction.