This month, we’re diving into 1950’s London with This Lovely City by Louise Hare. Part love story, part crime, the book charts the course of a jazz musician newly arrived in London on the Empire Windrush, and the opportunity, excitement, prejudice and love he finds in the dizzying metropolis.
We couldn’t put down this poignant page-turner and had lots of questions that Louise kindly answered for us. Read on for our (spoiler free) interview!
The drinks are flowing.
The music is playing.
But the party can’t last.
With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door. Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery.
As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.
Atmospheric, poignant and compelling, Louise Hare’s debut shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects. But, also, that there is always hope.
I did a tour into the deep level shelter beneath Clapham Common. It was first used WWII but was re-opened to house Windrush passengers when they first arrived in London. I wondered how that must have felt, to arrive in a strange country and then be shoved underground!
The novel began as two ideas. I had the story of Lawrie struggling to adjust to his new life, and the crime element was a completely different book idea that just wasn’t working. It wasn’t until I fitted them together that it worked as a complete story.
I didn’t change anything in the book apart from adding in a reference to Lawrie’s British passport. It felt important to remind people that the Windrush generation are, and were, British citizens.
At that time, Caribbean kids grew up going to school and learning about the wonderful Mother Country. They arrived with high expectations and were disappointed when the reality didn’t match up to their school textbooks. They expected a lovely city and got something very different!
I love Kate Atkinson – Life After Life is my favourite of hers. It’s a ‘what if’ novel I suppose, a literary Sliding Doors. Another favourite is James Baldwin’s Another Country. A novel that merges tragedy, jazz music and friendship, all themes that I wanted to use in This Lovely City.
Thank you for joining us Louise!
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