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London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics)

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This was the first organisation to break the BBC’s broadcasting monopoly when it began transmitting in 1955. My dad, had tenants and I remember going with him on rent visits and trying as a child to work out how these different people all came to bel iving under the same roof. Although a (happy) resident of the north of England for over 20 years now, I was born in London and raised in the south, and first read this book about 15 years ago. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. 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.

It also shows us something of Norman Collins’s courage in writing and publishing this novel when he did. But back then, the British public still had a love affair with reading, before entertainments like television were widely available.If you enjoy well written stories about London, about Britain in the 1940s, and the vagaries of human nature, then it's hard to imagine you wouldn't enjoy this book.

The blackouts are vividly presented (“it had a sinister, almost solid, quality of its own, this blackout, so that you felt you had to carve your way through it, scraping and scooping out a passage as you went along”) and when Collins emphasises the carry-on attitude of Londoners during the war, it seems not so much heroic as dutiful (“[Mr Josser] had something else to think about. Payments made using National Book Tokens are processed by National Book Tokens Ltd, and you can read their Terms and Conditions here. The Witches of Eastwick has a quote from the New Yorker and both PMC Donald Barthelme collections have quotes, from Anne Tyler and Dave Eggers, respectively.

Dulcimer Street, se11, could be regarded as the novel’s central character, though it is darling old Mr Josser – the man on the tram rather than the Clapham omnibus, who cries when he retires from his job as a lowly but loyal clerk in the City – who provides the book’s continuity. However, in addition to London Belongs To Me, Collins produced a fair number of other works of fiction, some of which are still in print. Despite an uncertain future in a time of war, the Jossers end the book back in the ground-floor rooms of 10 Dulcimer Street, se11, determined to sit it out where they belong, in Mr Josser’s beloved London. The independent-minded quarterly magazine that combines good looks, good writing and a personal approach. Alas, now too old and the wrong sex to be cast as Percy Boon, and far too young for the ancient Connie, the solution for me must surely be to add yet another Landlady to my extensive CV, and play Mrs Vizzard.

Ed Glinert read Classical Hebrew at Manchester University and in 1983 founded the city's listings magazine, City Life, which he edited until 1989. 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.London Belongs to Me (also known as Dulcimer Street) is a British film released in 1948, directed by Sidney Gilliat, and starring Richard Attenborough and Alastair Sim.

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