London Belongs To Me by Norman Collins
Monday, December 21, 2015
If only this was true. If only London did belong to me. I am involved in an ongoing love affair with London and the title of this book is what first drew me in but once I read the description I was sure it was my kind of book.
This is the account of 10 Dulcimer Street and the people who live there. Mrs Vizzard is the landlady and the picture of rectitude, until she falls in love with Mr Squales. He is a bogus medium determined to find a comfortable home to land in, preferably with a wife to support him. Mr and Mrs Josser have lived at number 10 for almost a dozen years. He has just retired and dreams of a house in the country, she isn't so sure. They are the characters around whom the story revolves. Mr Puddy dreams only of food and eats his way through his duties as night watchman. Percy Boon and his mother provide much of the drama. He gets involved in some very illegal activities that cause repercussions for all. Connie is an elderly actress now working in a nightclub as a cloakroom attendant. With a few other minor characters wandering in and out it could be a recipe for disaster, a book that tries to do too much with too many people. Yet, somehow it works.
I think it works because it doesn't try to pretend to be something it isn't. Really, it is a bit of a soap opera of a book, though that implies sex, violence and illegitimate children and that is not what this is. This is a soap opera about working class people of the 1940s. And it is a soap opera without huge events, except for Percy Boon's escapades. It is a picture of a time and a place and a people. It begins in late 1938 and ends just as the bombing of London was beginning during WWII. It is a picture of people on the verge of change. It is a war book without really being a war book. The war was infringing on people's lives but they were not always completely aware of it. And then, there it was.
London Belongs To Me was a fun book to read though that may seem like a strange thing to say about a book set in the early years of the war. But really, that is what it is, a fun book. It is the kind of book you pick up and don't want to put down. You tell yourself you will read just one more chapter. But then you want to know what happens and you find yourself one hundred pages further in and still reading. It is a huge beast of a book with eccentric characters that you get attached to. They are drawn with humor and empathy. I was sorry to say goodbye to them.