London Belongs To Me- Norman Collins 1945


I bought this book because I loved the title. At the time, I had a boyfriend in London and was travelling to and from the big smoke on a regular basis. I am very much a city girl, and love nothing better than the sight of tall buildings, the sound of distant sirens (actually, they didn't tend to be that distant in the area the ex-boyfriend lived in), and the anonymity of a crowd. So I thought I'd give this a shot, knowing nothing about it whatsoever other than the title. 

London Belongs to MeIt ended up in my tsundoku pile, unread and nearly forgotten about until long after that relationship ended. When I eventually got round to reading it, I was really pleasantly surprised and charmed by it.

Set in 1938, the story follows the occupants of 10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington. I found that Collins' conspiratorial writing style really drew me into the minutiae of his characters lives. It feels like you have a tour guide,  pulling you by the hand into the front rooms of families and whispering all the gossip into your ear.

In focusing on the lives of the inhabitants of just one house, Collins manages to also encompass lots of imagery and themes of the wider community of London at the time. The war hangs over this book like a character in itself, creeping slowly closer to the daily lives of our friends at 10 Dulcimer Street.

This is a book about ordinary, working class folk. But they're far from boring, despite the drudgery of some of their lives, and the time and city around them. Most of the characters are vivid and believable, and I found myself missing them after I finished the book and wishing I could spend more time with them, especially the Jossers- an old fashioned, salt of the earth, decent sort of a family. Other characters were less well written- Mr Puddy springs to mind, but in the grand scheme of the book it didn't really seem to matter.

The  psychic part of the storyline really tickled me too, given my skepticism for such things. Its dealt with with a subtle, dark humour and gentle ridicule whilst still managing some sensitivity.

I often found myself thinking that this would make a good film. Not a noisy Hollywood blockbuster, obviously, but an understated, sweeping drama about ordinary folk in an extraordinary time. Its a hefty book, and at first glance might look a bit intimidating, but its worth it.


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