In Hare’s engrossing debut, a young Jamaican man’s promising new life in post–World War II London threatens to unravel after he becomes a suspect in the death of a mixed-race infant.
The lovely city that Lawrie Matthews expected when he arrived in 1948 onboard the Empire Windrush, along with several hundred other Caribbean immigrants responding to Britain’s call for labor, turned out to be a war-ravaged metropolis “still too poor to clean itself up.” But after two years, he is starting to feel at home despite the cold, gloomy atmosphere and humiliating racial slights. Renting a tiny room in Brixton, postman Lawrie moonlights as a jazz musician in Soho clubs, supplementing his income with black-market deliveries—rationing is still in effect—for his landlady’s son. He also loves the girl next door, 18-year-old Evie Coleridge, the biracial daughter of the embittered white Agnes and an unknown black father. Life is good until the March morning when Lawrie discovers the body of a black child in a pond in Clapham Common. While the police quickly dismiss the other witness, a white woman walking her dog, Lawrie is harshly interrogated by the openly racist DS Rathbone. “Between you and me, I don’t give two shits....Too many of you around here already, but the law is the law.” He’s determined to find the culprit, and whether it’s Lawrie or someone else in the growing West Indian community makes no difference to him. Toggling between 1948 and 1950, Hare’s absorbing narrative builds a compelling portrait of immigrants struggling to belong to a country that needs but doesn’t really want them. Lawrie and Evie are so moving in their tender love for each other that readers will root for them to overcome the many heart-wrenching plot twists.
A must-read for fans of Zadie Smith and Call the Midwife.