London belongs to me: Norman Collins
Posted by Frank Burns
I picked up this novel with a certain foreboding: 736 pages of Penguin Classic print and no guarantee that the journey was going to be worth it. Written during the last war, it covers the very narrow period of 1938-40, encapsulating the months leading up to war and the first 12 months of the reality of war and the carpet bombing of London. Norman Collins boasted a background of journalism, controller of BBC television and one of the co-founders of ITV, in a bid to disrupt the monopoly of the BBC.
You might expect a novel of such magnitude to spread its wings over a wide area of people, events and places, but the reality is that it is confined to the small community of families and individuals that live in one house in London: 10 Dulcimer Street. Without giving away too much about the characters and the plot, the whole novel is a bit like a soap opera. Although I have a particular dislike of TV soap operas, because of the novel’s status as a classic piece of literature which uncovers, first hand, the reality of a segment of recent history, I found this compelling reading. The characters are stereotypical, but convincing and engaging nevertheless. The narrative has such an easy fluency and the story such an appealing cadence, that the reader is compelled to return again and again to take up combat with the dense print. It does not provide the page-turning frenzy of a John Grisham or a Dan Brown, but the pages turn nevertheless at a constant rhythm.
In its day, before the advent of mass media, this was a million-seller. Penguin, in its infinite wisdom, are clearly justified in this re-print. It will not disappoint you.