One of the joys of going to the Chiswick Book Festival is discovering new authors.
Cathy Rentzenbrink talks to debut novelist Louise Hare (This Lovely City) and Costa Short Story Award winner Luan Goldie (Homecoming) at the 2021 Festival, about their new books exploring the experience of belonging, in a session called ‘Finding Home’.
Images above: Louise Hare; This Lovely City cover
This Lovely City – Louise Hare
Louise Hare’s book This Lovely City is described as ‘a soaring debut’ set in London in the aftermath of the Second World War.
‘An atmospheric and utterly compelling debut novel’ – goodreads
This Lovely City 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.
‘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’.
The book, a murder mystery, is largely set in Brixton. The main character Lawrie finds a dead baby in the pond on Clapham Common and quickly becomes the prime suspect for the child’s murder.
The book started out as a short story, says Louise, but the feedback she received was that people wanted to know more about the character she’d created; what happened to him after his arrival in London? The short story became a chapter in a novel.
She was inspired by a visit to Clapham South tube station, which had been used during World War II as an air raid shelter.
“A lot of the people who arrived on the Windrush, if they didn’t have anywhere to go, they just kind of bussed them to Clapham South and put them into the deep level shelter, so a lot of the men actually lived in those deep level tunnels for the first couple of weeks until they went and got jobs and teh nearest Labour Exchange was Brixton, which is why Brixton developed that Caribbean community’.
The book’s main characters are Lawrie and Evie but London is almost a third character. Louise, a northerner, says when she first came to London she would spend whole weekends exporing the city by bus “jumping on random buses, just to see where they went”.
She also drew on contemporary literature from the 1950s by immigrants from the West Indies.
A lot of the men who came here had fought for Britain during the war, she says. They expected to be welcomed and were quite shocked to find they weren’t.
Images above: Homecoming cover; Luan Goldie
Homecoming – Luan Goldie
Luan Goldie’s book Homecoming is her second novel. Her debut novel, Nightingale Point, was longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. It was also a BBC Radio 2 Jo Whiley Book Club Pick. In 2018 she won the Costa Short Story Award and her short stories have since appeared in HELLO! and the Sunday Express.
Praise for Homecoming
‘This emotionally charged story highlights the complexities of love, grief and forgiveness . . . Homecoming will have you racing to join the dots from start to finish’ Heat magazine
‘A beautiful novel. It was a real pleasure to read’ Jing-Jing Lee, author of How We Disappeared
It is the tale of four people whose lives are inextricably linked and moves between London and Kenya over a period of almost two decades.
‘Homecoming is a profound story of love, family and friendship. It’s about coming to terms with your past, and about what happens when we finally share our truths’.
For most Londoners the concept of ‘home’s is complicated, as most of us started out somewhere else. This is a tale of grief and passion which gradually unfolds, examining as it does the unfinished business of identity.
Luan Goldie is Glasgwegian in origin; she grew up in East London and has settled in Stoke Newington. Luan and Louise will be exploring what it means to belong somewhere, with best-selling author Cath Rentzenbrink.
Chiswick Book Festival
See Luan and Louise talking about their books with Cathy Rentzenbrink at the Chiswick Book Festival 2021 at 12.00 pm on Saturday 11 September in the Boston Room at George IV. Hosted by The Chiswick Calendar.
Book tickets: Ticketsource/ChiswickBookFestival
See Cathy Rentzenbrink talking about her own new book, her first novel, Everyone Is Still Alive, with Janet Janet Ellis at the Chiswick Book Festival 2021 at 1.30pm on Saturday 11 September at Chiswick Cinema.
Book tickets: Ticketsource/ChiswickBookFestival
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