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London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Norman Collins , Ed Glinert
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

26 Feb 2009 Penguin Modern Classics

Also known as Dulcimer Street, Norman Collins's London Belongs to Me is a Dickensian romp through working-class London on the eve of the Second World War. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Ed Glinert, author of The London Compendium.

It is 1938 and the prospect of war hangs over every London inhabitant. But the city doesn't stop. Everywhere people continue to work, drink, fall in love, fight and struggle to get on in life. At the lodging-house at No.10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, the buttoned-up clerk Mr Josser returns home with the clock he has received as a retirement gift. The other residents include faded actress Connie; tinned food-loving Mr Puddy; widowed landlady Mrs Vizzard (whose head is turned by her new lodger, a self-styled 'Professor of Spiritualism'); and flashy young mechanic Percy Boon, whose foray into stolen cars descends into something much, much worse...

Norman Collins (1907-1982) was a British writer, and later a radio and television executive, who was responsible for creating Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4, and became one of the major figures behind the establishment of the Independent Television (ITV) network in the UK. In all Norman Collins wrote 16 novels and two plays, including London Belongs to Me (1945), The Governor's Lady (1968) and The Husband's Story (1978).

If you enjoyed London Belongs to Me, you might like Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'One of the great city novels: a sprawling celebration of the comedy, the savagery, the eccentricity and the quiet heroism at the heart of ordinary London life'

Sarah Waters, author of The Night Watch

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London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics) + Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky (Vintage Classics) + Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price For All Three: 20.97

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (26 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141442336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442334
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A magic evocation of a vanished world, a Dickensian page-turner that keeps one gripped to the very end'

'One of the great city novels: a sprawling celebration of the comedy, savagery, eccentricity and heroism ... of ordinary London life' Sarah Waters
-- Sarah Waters


'One of the great city novels: a sprawling celebration of the comedy, savagery, eccentricity and heroism ... of ordinary London life' Sarah Waters

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read 14 Jun 2009
Norman Collins is probably someone you have never heard of, but from being deputy chairman at Gollancz he went on to join the BBC. He created the Dick Barton radio series and also initiated Woman's Hour, before moving over to the television side of the business. He eventually left the BBC and was a prime force in helping to create an independent television network in this country. Whilst doing all this he found time to write a number of novels, this one being his most famous. It is good to see that the clever chaps at Penguin have now placed this novel in their Modern Classics series, hopefully giving this cult classic a much wider audience. This book has been filmed before, but really this needs to be made into a proper series on the tv, it is well past time that it should have been.

I was glad when I stumbled across this amazing book back in print as being a South Londoner born and bred from generations of such this book carries a certain resonance. Indeed when I was little my grandparents lived in similar conditions. The story revolves around the tenants of number 10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington. The story opens with Mr Josser forced into early retirement. This book has never been considered high literature and indeed it isn't, so don't be worried about the length. If you like Delderfield's Avenue books you will love this. At the beginning with Mr Josser retiring you may start to think that this is a kitchen sink drama, but don't be put off, when Mr Josser drops his retirement clock on the pavement you will realise that this story is most definitely a comedy drama.

Despite the Phony War leading into the main war, car theft and murder this book doesn't dwell on the bleakness of life, indeed whatever happens Collins finds comedy in the situation.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative of a London Past 6 May 2009
This is a fantastic read full of ordinary (but vivid) characters who bring pre-WWII London incredibly to life. I got totally lost in this book and wanted to savour it, relishing the prospect of a few chapters before bed every night. The book is set in a multi-occupancy house in Kennington and follows the day to day life of all of its inhabitants - most of them very respectable, some less so! It's very funny in places and also very poignant. I found that I got totally caught up with all the characters. Like the last reviewer I particularly liked Connie (the Soho nightclub attendant who comes home every night at 4am on the late tram!) but also had a soft spot for Percy Boon despite all his misdemeanours. All in all this is a book to get swept away in and not to be missed. Anyone who is a fan of pre/post-war London literature - eg Patrick Hamilton, James Curtis, Gerald Kersh, Julian Maclaren Ross, etc will welcome the opportunity to live for a while in the less frantic lives (but not without their surprising twists) of the tenants of Dulcimer Street, Kennington, South London.
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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm So Glad This Book Belongs to Me 12 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Norman Collins' `London Belongs to Me' starts in 1938 and chronicles the lives of a group of `ordinary' Londoners, set against a background of impending war, then WW2 itself - although this is not a novel specifically about the horrors of war. This is a novel about the lives, with all their trials and tribulations, and successes and failures, of a diverse group of people, struggling to cope with everyday life, in most cases on a very meagre budget. We are introduced to the lonely landlady, in whose house the main characters live, the ageing glamour girl with an eye to the main chance, and my favourite characters, Mr. & Mrs. Josser, adjusting to life with Mr.Josser newly retired, and other characters, too numerous to mention but all fascinating. Norman Collins really brings his characters to life - I felt as if I knew them all intimately and really cared about their lives and various predicaments. This is a big book - some 734 pages - but it wasn't long enough for me. I was really sorry to finish it and feel sure I'll read it again some day. On the basis of this book, I would compare Norman Collins favourably with Charles Dickens in his ability to observe and comment on characters and situations, with subtle underlying humour (although I would rate Collins far more readable than Dickens). There were many occasions when I laughed out loud and many, many more when I smiled to myself - I would rate this book an absolute masterpiece.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A period piece 7 Sep 2010
The occupants of 10 Dulcimer Street are neighbours, in a way unique to the class-ridden London of 1938. Everyone considers themself to be somewhat superior to at least one of their neighbours- but almost everyone cares, even just a little bit, about the other people they share the house with. As readers, we instantly form our own judgements about the characters, too.

The results are often funny, frequently moving and sometimes dramatic. How will the residents cope with a psychopath in their midst? Where will Mr Puddy's next snack come from? Which of the household will faded showgirl Connie attempt to manipulate next?

You can lose yourself in the streets of Collins' lost London. Or snuggle up in front of the Jossers' fire as, along with the other people you've met in the pages of this excellent novel, you wait for the first bombs to start to fall. Occasionally you'll see glimpses of what makes Englishness such a complex business.

This book is deliciously old-fashioned in its language and some of its mores, yet so easy to read and enjoy- but still warmly relevant to the descendants of the Londoners of 1938.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book, very evocative of times past.
Published 5 days ago by Miu miu Lin
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting descriptions of London form the past but very long winded and no real structure
Published 1 month ago by E J STICKLAND
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
thank you
Published 1 month ago by rosie2
5.0 out of 5 stars I felt sad to be losing touch with them
Ever read a book so enjoyable that you don't want it to end? Well, "London belongs to me " is just such a book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely read, characters jump right off the page and into your heart!
I remember a long time back this was once an ITV series back in the 70s - which I did stay up for. The reason it caught my interest then, as I remember it, it was all about a big... Read more
Published 2 months ago by alex
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all fans of London literature
This London comedy/tragedy worked on every level, it made me both laugh and cry. A stunningly intriguing piece of literature, this is up there with the likes of Patrick Hamilton.
Published 6 months ago by a c gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars "for God's sake don't look inside my hat"
I picked this up on a whim as I hadn't heard of it before but it looked promising. I'm really glad I did as it's one of the best things I've read in a long time. Read more
Published 8 months ago by A. Stanhope
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read
Interesting characters living together in an old and rather faded London house. Quite engaging and the story was made into a film years ago. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Coobagal
4.0 out of 5 stars A read that sends you back in time
I liked this book very much. The atmosphere of the era was captured in every way, however I would have prefered a more conclusive ending. Read more
Published 18 months ago by helen
5.0 out of 5 stars In my top 5 ever
This book was given to me as a present and I found it completely engrossing. All the characters become like old friends.. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sue Peters
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