Posted 20 hours ago

London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics)

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The centre of the book is a murder trial, which unfolds brilliantly over just 30 pages but feels much more substantial. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice.

At the novel’s heart is a murder, perpetrated by garage mechanic and small-time crook Percy Boon, and the consequences of this desperate act for the residents of No. 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.It gives the book – particularly what comes after – necessary focus and structure, which was earlier meandering. I felt utterly steeped in the murk and dinginess of pre-war London, and the period details of Lyons’ Corner Houses, trams, and the depictions of London’s once very distinct neighbourhoods were a delight to read. It is the perfect habitat for retired clerks, aspiring typists, faded actresses, failed dairy managers and self-sufficient (but only just) widows of property. Today it is mostly forgotten, a cult classic, rather than a staple on the must-read list … although it was introduced to a new generation by retro chic pop group St Etienne with their 1991 track of the same name. This book sounds like a love letter to a place that means a lot to me and I really really must read it.

London Belongs to Me is Norman Collins’s best-known book, first published in 1945, regularly reprinted throughout the fifties and sixties, once in 1977 and most recently by Penguin in 2008. Her face perpetually made up in a doll-like mask, she forces her way into the lives of the inhabitants of Dulcimer Street, never one to miss the opportunity for a gossip, or a free meal, living hand to mouth as she does since the boards have given her up. This is a very specific London from Christmas 1938 to Christmas 1940, from the looming clouds of war to the Blitz. The independent-minded quarterly magazine that combines good looks, good writing and a personal approach. Their stories are variously funny, tragic, exciting, interesting, and the interweaving narratives kept me engrossed throughout.Prepare to be seduced by engaging characters, irresistible in their own quirky way, and transported by keen descriptions of the sights, sounds, and tastes of London. For much of the novel, Squales is the answer to a widowed maiden’s prayer, but ultimately his actions seal his fate when he exploits Mrs Vizzard’s vulnerability and provokes her to revenge. Otto is something of a pantomime Nazi, with his conscientious ‘Sieg Heils,’ his unquestioning acceptance of party ideology and his worship of Hitler.

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