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Dock

London Belongs to Me - Norman Collins

Waterstones in the last few years have been very good at doing inspiring informative displays of books from certain genres. Be it ‘European Writers’, ‘Best Short Stories Collections’, or ‘Classic Crime’ etc. Until I went in the other week I had never heard of the writer Norman Collins. LBTM was in amongst titles in a particular display by writers like Barry Hines and Stan Barstow. I suppose it was some kind of ‘Best of British’ or ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’s' promotion. Originally written in 1945 LBTM is one of the recent Penguin print of ‘Vintage classics’ range. I Had a look at it and thought it could be worth a bash.

Good thinking on my part. This is easily my book of the year (and as its only September that’s a bloody bold statement). The setting is a rooming house/lodgings at No.10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, London. The characters are the occupants of this address. Amongst them the fragile-but-fearsome landlady Mrs. Vizzard, the young rebel without a clue/promising mechanic Percy Boon who see’s London and the world as his for the taking, Connie the ageing nightclub cloakroom attendant, the mysterious Mr. Squales, and (my personal favourites) the brilliant middle-aged couple Mr. and Mrs. Josser.

The first chapter starts on Christmas eve 1938 and describes Mr. Jossers retirement day from the company he has worked for all his life. We are then taken through the intertwining tales of the residents of Dulcimer Street in the lead up to WW2 and the book ends exactly two years later in 1940. Collins envelopes the reader in late 1930’s London, the politics, the architecture, the food, the weather, the fashions, and the humour of what must have been a very strange time to be alive in England’s capital. This is a such a well written book that I would recommend it to anybody who likes, er, reading books! Collins humour is razor sharp but he can also nail you with some of the sadness that befalls certain characters. This is an excellent funny, touching, and euphoric read.

As I mentioned earlier I don’t know much about Collins, but he wrote a few books before this one and was a part of the left-wing publishing house that first published Orwell’s ‘Road to Wigan Pier’ he had a period at the BBC and then jumped ship and challenged the monopoly of the Beeb and became one of the big hitters at ATV through the 50’s and 60’s. I just wish that people with his insight, humanity and striking wit were still in charge of what gets on the telly. I’d definitely watch more of it if this bloke was running things. 10/10
Plastic Man

I've enjoyed Orwell's and Graham Greene's descriptions of life during the late Victorian and Edwardian  periods.

May I also recommend something that I came across as part of a "Penguin Classic" bundle - "The Diary of a Nobody" by G. and W. Grossmith. It's a relatively short book, detailing the life and times of much-put-upon bank employee Charles Pooter.

The book was originally published in 1892 and provides a very interesting insight into lower/ middle class life of that time (postal deliveries 3 or 4 times a day?).

I also found it very comical as regards how a chap who, to all intents and purposes, assume he is the master of his household, but clearly isn't.
Dock

Plastic Man wrote:
I've enjoyed Orwell's and Graham Greene's descriptions of life during the late Victorian and Edwardian  periods.

May I also recommend something that I came across as part of a "Penguin Classic" bundle - "The Diary of a Nobody" by G. and W. Grossmith. It's a relatively short book, detailing the life and times of much-put-upon bank employee Charles Pooter.

The book was originally published in 1892 and provides a very interesting insight into lower/ middle class life of that time (postal deliveries 3 or 4 times a day?).

I also found it very comical as regards how a chap who, to all intents and purposes, assume he is the master of his household, but clearly isn't.


I have heard of the Grosssmith book before. I'll put it on my list. Ta!

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