What a lovely read This Lovely City was. Set from 1948-1950 in London, it follows the lives of Evie, a mixed race woman born and bred in London and Lawrie, a man who has just arrived in London on the Empire Windrush ship from Jamaica.
Opening sentence: The basement club spat Lawrie out into the dirty maze of Soho, a freezing mist settling over him like a damp jacket.
Lawrie and Evie
Lawrie is a postman by day and a member of a Jazz band by night. He lives next door to secretary Evie Coleridge – his neighbour turned girlfriend. He was one of the many people who was offered a new life, full of opportunity and wealth, only to land on English shores and be treated terribly, facing racism on a daily basis.
If anyone could understand the tigers it was him, trapped in a foreign land and reduced to parading himself before a paying audience. But then he’d raise his clarinet, the reed rough against his lips, and feel like a king.
A murder mystery
When a Black baby is found dead on Clapham Common, Lawrie is unfortunately there when the baby is discovered, so is treated as a prime suspect in the baby’s death. The whole Black community is questioned, which doesn’t help the unrest and injustice that is already prevalent in society.
Through an engaging cast of characters including Aston, Lawrie’s friend who you are never quite sure what he’s up to and Rose, a woman who works at the shelter that Lawrie stays in when he first gets to London and takes a shine to him, despite the fact that she is married a captivating and layered story is created.
Lawrie has to work hard to prove his innocence and keep his head above water. He has the support of Evie, but she has her own secrets and is trying to manage her fraught relationship with her mother. Being mixed race hasn’t been easy for Evie and meeting Lawrie helped her find a stronger sense of belonging.
She didn’t know anybody who looked like her and now here were a whole group of people whose skin was even darker than hers. An entire ship full of them!
This Lovely City is a story about the racial injustice faced by the men and women who came to England on the HMT Empire Windrush, a legacy that remains, but it is also a story of young love and the hope that things can and will get better.
‘Point is, these people think we beneath them. They ignore the fact that we all got passports that say we are British. That we got a right to be here.
Despite its tough themes, it’s a fresh, heartwarming read. Very much enjoyed it.
- Get your copy of This Lovely City here;
- Published by HarperCollins 2020;
- 400 pages;
- My rating: