London belongs to me: Norman Collins

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.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on January 21, 2012, in Book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Olivia A wylie

    As I am getting ready to leave for Florida soon, I am eternally grateful for the suggested books you mention. I am going to read some of these while on vacation. I received your package and I thank you. What are you reading next?

  2. Frank, I somehow fell into your Camino story, and read through the episodes in Spain. I’m a cyclo-tourist who has done plenty in the mountains of Asturias and Cantabria. Your descriptions were neat and concise, which is why I read them all.

    Now I’ve dipped into other bits of the blog and found myself here. I love this book!! I’m 55. I gave it to my 81-year old mum at Christmas and she loved it too. What I most admired was the author’s success in giving each character their very own, recognisable voice. There is also a lovely, gentle humour which runs throughout. I have a copy of the film, with Richard Attenborough and Alastair Sim.

    All the best from Terry (going to cycle from Faro on the Algarve back home to Blighty with a pal this coming June).
    Cheers and thanks for the good read!!

    • Terry, thank you for those complimentary thoughts. You sound like a man and cyclo-tourist after my own heart. Your journey from Faro, inevitably, will cross, or even follow some of, the Camino de la Plata, which starts in Seville and heads north through Extremadura, Salamanca and then on to Santiago. Sounds like a great venture. Will you be ‘blogging it’ or sending updates via Facebook?
      I wish you ‘buen camino’!

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