Speed Reading - debut novels

Set in 1950s London, Louise Hare’s compelling This Lovely City (HQ, £8.99) evokes the early prejudice endured by the Windrush generation. Lawrie Matthews works as a postman by day and plays clarinet at night. He’s sweet on Evie, the girl next door, another outsider. Evie never knew her Sierra Leonean father and was brought up by her embittered, white mother. When Lawrie finds the corpse of a black baby in the pond on Clapham Common, the Jamaican community comes under scrutiny. Hare explores a tumultuous period to mesmerising effect.


The richly deserved winner of the 2020 Costa First Novel Award, Ingrid Persaud’s Love After Love (Faber & Faber, £8.99) explores other forms of prejudice. Set in Trinidad and New York, we follow the fortunes of an unusual triangle: the feisty Betty Ramdin, her estranged shy son Solo and kindly Mr Chetan, their one-time lodger and friend whom they both come to love. They all harbour secrets which inevitably draw them to each other. But their repressed desires, hidden truths and private sorrows are also their undoing.


Sairish Hussain confidently dispenses with clich├ęs and caricatures in her refreshing depiction of an ordinary British Muslim family living in Bradford, The Family Tree (HQ, £8.99). Zahra and her older brother Saahil are brought up by Amjad after his wife dies in childbirth. Saahil graduates with an engineering degree and is looking forward to a bright future with his best friend Ehsan. When the pair suffer a brutal attack, the far-reaching effects change all their lives. What ensues is a redemptive tale about the importance of family, community and love.

Originally published by The Tablet