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Comment: Expedited shipping available on this book. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged.
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London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 26 Feb 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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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: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

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

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

Review

'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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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Norman Collins, writer, sometime publisher with Gollancz, creator of the Left Book Club series of books and was later in charge of BBC Radio's Light Programme. Later still, he was controller of television, when we only had the BBC. A single television channel. And even later, he helped form the Independent Television Authority.

In other words, this was a rather busy man, who nevertheless wrote 16 novels and 2 plays.

This particular novel, published in 1945, and starting during the phony peace, but with the potential for war as an undercurrent, and ending during the Blitz, is a veritable house brick at well over 700 pages, and in fairly small print too. Though it fairly whirls absorbingly along, with a terrific mix of memorable, believable `characters' - all pretty well ordinary working class Londoners. There is crime, - a central crime, and we know who did it, - there are romances, some of which are doomed to fail, others of which are more hopeful - there is seediness, there is deception, class-consciousness, socialism and fascism on the streets, penury, near-penury, greed - and oodles of affection for London itself, for ordinary people living ordinary lives, and displaying all the wonderful combination of nobility, generosity and mean-mindedness which we all do, all-mashed up together.

Collins takes a Kennington House, 10 Dulcimer Street, whose widowed owner lets out rooms. Under the one roof are the Jossers - an clerk on the verge of retirement, his wife and their office worker daughter. There is an ageing ex-`actress' now a cloakroom attendant at a seedy club, there is a devout widow and her grown-up motor mechanic son, with impossible aspirational dreams.
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In a class of its own. One of the best books I have ever read.
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I love this book
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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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With a literary career which took something of a backseat to his contribution to TV and radio production, sometime novelist Norman Collins’ near-epic (the novel runs to over 700 pages) 1945 dissection of the mood seeping through the pores of the capital city on the eve of WW2 is skilfully written, full of authentically engaging characters and a series of plot twists, both personal and of wider global significance. Collins vividly evokes the claustrophobic atmosphere and the working class milieu of the lodging-house at the centre of the novel, in which everyone (ultimately) knows everyone else’s business, and with London Belongs To Me’s dozen or so, often eccentrically drawn, main characters, plus Collins’ deadpan humour, the novel invites comparison with Dickens, even if Collins’ prose style is more direct and less expansive than his noted predecessor. Collins reimagines the staid social attitudes of the times particularly well via the upstanding Mr and Mrs Josser, whose respectable existence is threatened by the less salubrious goings-on at No. 10 Dulcimer Street and, ultimately, the approaching darkness and tragedy that is imminent with the onset of war. With its celebration of minor victories and dutiful heroism, it’s a novel that sums up the 'stiff upper lip’ trait of the British as well as any that I’ve read and Collins’ tale sits alongside other impressive 'war era’ works (by the likes of Patrick Hamilton and Alexander Baron) as one of the finest examples.
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Of all the world's great cities, London seems to lend itself best to being portrayed as poky and provincial. Not for Paris, sad tales of women struggling to get together enough money to feed the electric meter; not for New York, stories of lonely night-watchmen who are just delighted to have one ring of a stove and some canned food. London is a sprawling city which can easily be made dingy and small (particularly the London of the pre-war years), and this is what Norman Collins' evocative novel does. `London Belongs to Me' is in many ways an epic tale following many characters over a number of years, but with such a concentration on the little details in life, it still manages to feel triumphantly undemonstrative and British.

The ambitious narrative follows the residents of a South London boarding house: the widowed landlady; a couple and their daughter, a failed actress well past her prime, an overweight widower, another widow with the mechanic son as the apple of her eye and a newly arrived spiritualist. Starting at Christmas 1938, it ends on the same occasion in 1940. As such it takes in the growing threat of Hitler, the start of the War, Dunkirk and the Blitz, all while examining the minutiae of these Londoner's lives. An actual précis of the plot would be hard to pull off as there's just so much of it, but it does include young romance, old romance, politics, mental illness, murder, nightclubs, police raids, unsuitable flatmates, breach of promise suits and communion with the dead. There are also a lot of visits to Lyon's Tea Houses, which I particularly like, as we don't have those anymore and they do seem a perfect symbol of lost London.
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