Posted 20 hours ago

London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics)

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Well, it’s outrageous that this novel of maximum fun could ever have been forgotten (it was a big hit in 1945).

Sheltered and contented amongst the shelves of silent ledgers (‘E to Egg-’) at Creek Lane EC2; it is if he’d never been away. The film concerns the residents of a large terraced house in London between Christmas 1938 and September 1939. But somehow or other it remains London, with the buses that cruise up Park Lane twinkling through the railings, and the air filled with the roar and rustle of innumerable wheels. Somewhere in our loft, there is a box containing jigsaws, board games and a very particular pack of ‘Old Maid’ cards dating from the 1940s.is the conduit through which introductions to the other characters are made, and a series of ‘if only’s’ set in train. It also shows us something of Norman Collins’s courage in writing and publishing this novel when he did. 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. Initially, the only presence is through the character of Otto Hapfel, an incompetent Nazi representative in London, but later, as the Blitz beckons, the war fills every corner of the pages.

To Doris, Camden Town is a disappointment and ‘appears exactly the same as the Elephant and Castle on her side of the river’. He tries not to get involved in the lives of the others, and instead focuses his energies on making sure he can get the most for himself by doing the least work possible.The second world war looms as each of the varied and memorable characters contend with their own lives and preoccupations.

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