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London Belongs to Me

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  397 ratings  ·  68 reviews
The story concerns the tenants of a large terraced house in pre-WWII London.

Real Londoners, old, young some in love, some murderers, some getting drunk, some dying and some being born.
Paperback, 702 pages
Published September 15th 1977 by Penguin (first published 1945)
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255th out of 402 books — 522 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,598)
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Paul Bryant


Every so often some ambitious writer comes up with an epic novel to sum up London for us – Bleak House (1853), White Teeth (1999), Capital (2012) – and filling the gap is this massive delightful soapy sprawl. The introduction tell us that London Belongs to Me (I love that title) is around the top of Division Two as far as novels go :

Today it is mostly forgotten, a cult classic, rather than a staple on the must-re
I'd just finished reading five novels by Patrick Hamilton (Hangover Square, The Slaves Of Solitude, and the Gorse Trilogy); a biography of Patrick Hamilton (Through a Glass Darkly: The Life of Patrick Hamilton); and a biography of Julian MacLaren-Ross (Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Julian Maclaren-Ross). Reading these books helped me to realise how much I enjoy books about London. Coincidentally Amazon recommended this book to me (and it was a book that I'd not heard of unt ...more
Of all the world’s great cities, London seems to lend itself best to being portrayed as poky and provincial. Not for Paris, sad tales of women struggling to get together enough money to feed the electric meter; not for New York, stories of lonely night-watchmen who are just delighted to have one ring of a stove and some canned food. London is a sprawling city which can easily be made dingy and small (particularly the London of the pre-war years), and this is what Norman Collins’ evocative novel ...more
Bretty Brett
The strength of this book is not really its London setting. It translates readily for anybody living anywhere - particularly in England. Norman Collins observes what makes the English working and middle classes tick with absolutely unerring accuracy, blends in comedy and drama and we have a glorious recipe for success. Dated, yet curiously not dated (do people really change that much? Wasn't the London of the 1930s, with its all night cafes, rather a racier place than many of us live in today?), ...more
Probably my favourite book of all time. At my wedding, my father read out some congratulation cards during his speech. One card reduced me to floods of tears; my parents had signed it from all the characters of this book. It was such a personal and indulgent moment between my parents and me as nobody else recognised the names. It made this book even more special to me. :)
Ian Mapp
A book chosen solely for its title.

This was written in 1945 and is a sprawling soap opera of a book, detailing the lives of the inhabitants of one london house, the ficional 10 Dulcimer Street.

Collins does a peerless job with characterisation. We know them all, their traits, motivations, desires and fears and he delivers it all with a comic flouish, against the back drop of the second world war.

The house is owned by a widowe - Mrs Vizzard. She is worried about the reputation of the house, whos
As dusk falls, the Park in the background becomes vast and mysterious, and the gas lamps that light your way along the main paths dwindle into the distance like lanterns in Illyria. 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. Yes, it's London all right... Or rather, that's how it was in 1939.
Maybe no-one's idea of a five-star book although maybe a four-and-a-
One of the most purely entertaining novels I've read and enjoyed - it may lack the intellectual or philosophical depth that would qualify London Belongs to Me as a true classic, it has a warmth and belief in humanity that makes it compelling and exciting.

There's also a great cast of characters, ordinary people, who reside at No.10 Dulcimer St in Kennington. Each major character and a fair few minor ones are fully rounded and easy to get hold of - Connie, the ageing actress with a heart of gold a
A masterful visualisation of London under the shadow of war, told through a series of interlinked vignettes that follow the lives of the various inhabitants of a south London terrace, the book (Like all of Collin's work) is infused with a light humour based on pitch-perfect observation and a fantastic eye for the most banal details, enthralling throughout and managing the difficult task of making the reader invest the same amount of emotion in a scene about a broken bicycle as a climactic murder ...more
Stephen Curran
It seems unfitting to describe this Moby Dick sized novel as a 'slice of life'. 'Slab of life' seems more appropriate, and not just because of its bulk.

London Belongs to Me concerns the tenants of a South London lodging house between Christmas 1938 and Christmas 1940. We are well beyond the halfway point before war is declared. Up until then we are made privy to the lives of one of the most vibrant sets of characters I have ever come across. Our familiarity with their domestic ups-and-downs mean
Paul Brogan
I lived in England for 17 years, one third of my life, but never in London. Ironically, It was only when I moved to South Africa that I started visiting it regularly, but only the cosmopolitan world of The City, Hyde Park clubs, fancy hotels, and internationally acclaimed restaurants — the Champagne Charlie heart of the north bank — and not the domain of the real Londoner. I was no nearer understanding what it was like to live in this place than when I was rusticated in the provinces.

However, if
The era of 1920's to 1950's fascinates me for I want to understand what people of those times were thinking, how they were interacting and living, what they were discussing and worrying about. Politically they were turbulent times internationally, having just finished with World War 1 and then unfortunately building up and experiencing World War 2. This book, starting in 1938 in London , seemed just what I wanted to read. It wasn't. Pure soap opera for 700+ pages. I had hoped that it would impro ...more
According to the interesting preface in this edition, Norman Collins was the author of sixteen novels and two plays, none of which, save London Belongs to Me, is worth remembering. Which makes the book even more noteworthy because it is a complete gem of a novel in almost every detail.
It is quite Dickensian in scope, centring on one family and the people who are drawn into their social orbit, and it succeeds in providing an account of a city at one moment in its history. The moment is the months
Andrea Bowhill
London Belongs to Me opens in 1938, in the run-up to the Second World War. Its narrative concerns a group of disparate characters who share a rented house in Kennington. The action takes place entirely within London, apart from a handful of scenes in the Home Counties. Us readers see much of the city through the characters and what they see varies enormously. We get a glimpse of the city itself through Mr Josser, as he retires from his job; we encounter London’s more Bohemian elements through th ...more
rachael gibson
I read London Belongs to Me hot on the heels of Patrick Hamilton's Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky and, as with that urban life, it is London that really shines as the star of the book.

Interestingly (at least to me), I live and have lived in the neighbourhoods depicted in both books; Hamilton's Fitzrovia and Collins' Kennington. The suburbs south of the river might be less salubrious than Soho, but they are brought to life with the same colour and, despite the fact that the book depicts li
Spans the time from Christmas 1938 to Christmas 1940 among a group of Londoners living in or associated with a house south of the river in a neighbourhood on the edge between middle-class and working-class respectability. Mrs Vizzard owns the house, lives in the basement, worries about the new tenant, the foreign-looking Mr Squales, and consoles herself with spiritualism; Mr and Mrs Josser live on the first floor with their daughter who wants to move out and room with a friend but doesn't dare t ...more
Laurie Neighbors
Not a great work of literature, but unusual in its perspective of the Second World War, as you can see from the notes. Over the last few years, I've read quite a few "war novels" -- but this novel is singular in that it opens in London before the war becomes a reality to its working-class London subjects, and closes just as the inhabitants of London are beginning to deal with the reality of siege. The book is "fun," really, which is an odd way to experience a war novel. The characters are humoro ...more
I was put off for years by the length of this book. What a shame. It was wonderful. A tapestry of everyday events involving ordinary people, yet so completely moving. The dignity these people brought to the struggle just to plod on and get by in a world not kind to those who have little. And there is something so poignant about the quiet, understated heroism shown by these decent people as they battled to get through the growing terror of war. With people like this, Hitler never stood a chance. ...more
I've been telling anyone who will listen about this book. It is an incredible piece of literature - full of life, humour, pathos. It reads like a classic Ealing Film and it made me warm to London in a way I haven't before. All of the characters are beautifully real, from the landlady of the house that acts as the focus of the novel, to her crazy fiancé who pretends to be a medium without realising he really is a medium, and the perpetually resting actress who likes to be in the thick of everyone ...more
Stefano Costantini
Just a slow soap opera. Boring. Should have abandoned it earlier.
Ant Harrison
Not sure that I can add very much to the numerous reviews of this seminal London novel, well nothing that hasn't been said before. Norman Collins' great work follows the assorted residents of 10 Dulcimer Street in Kennington, and a very mixed bag of characters they are too. The Jossers, landlady Mrs Vizzard and her charlatan fancy man Mr Squales, the Boons, Mr Puddy, and lonely good time girl Connie - the central character is the house itself and it's what brings them all together and acts as a ...more
Marc Maitland
This book took me almost a year to read (all 730-odd pages of it) but was neither because I did not find it a compelling book, or that I am a particularly slow reader, but rather that it was written in such a way that enabled me to delve into it, and leave it for several days (or even weeks) and then come back to it, without any difficulty of recap. It also helped that its 90-odd chapters are themselves subdivided into numbered sub-chapters, thus enabling convenient breaks in reading that might ...more
This seems to be often ranged with other 'forgotten classics' of the 30s and 40s like, most notably, the novels of Patrick Hamilton and Julian MacLaren-Ross. I don't think it's as good as that, the other two are more interesting novelists, who write far better and have a more gripping (if depressing) and articulated outlook on life. But Collins' novel is enjoyable for all that. It's like a pleasant little soap opera about ordinary Londoners' lives around the outbreak of WWII. It often read like ...more

Description: It is 1938 and the prospect of war hangs over London. At the lodging-house at 10 Dulcimer Street, Mr Josser returns home with the clock he has received as a retirement gift. The other residents include flashy young mechanic Percy Boon, whose foray into stolen cars descends into something much, much worse.

SE11 equates to today's Vauxhall/Kennington/Oval. Alistair Sims was fab, what with his comb over ending in a kiss-curl.

Jun 10, 2015 Mari rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes 20th century social history
Recommended to Mari by: family
I'm enjoying this book which was written in the 1940s. I;m reading it as a follow-up to the contemporary Capital by John Lanchester. It's reminiscent of stuff I remember from knowing my grandparents and the culture they lived in, a good portrayal of that time and the food people ate, the pleasures people had, and the attitudes they believed in holding. A good read.

Update June 10th: Now on page 383: Had to leave this on one side while read stuff that's work-related ... back with it and it is rea
Superb book.Reads like an Ealing Studios film; episodes of life from pre-war and war time London/England, make for enjoyable reading. This book probably deserves wider attention.
This is a long book, but compelling and easy to read. Normally I like my books to have a little bit more depth, but I found this was the perfect balance between substance and lightness that made it perfect escapism, as I read a bit each lunchtime at work. I think it worked so well because the characters are brilliantly drawn, and feel very ‘whole’. Even with obvious flaws that mean you should probably dislike them, you also see their vulnerability, their humanity, and you can’t help but like the ...more
Janice White
fantastic book. almost photographic in its language and storytelling
Good read! Dickensian set of characters, all viewed kindly, even young Percy who is tried for murder has redeeming features. based on people living at 10 Dulcimer street in Pennington, owned by Mrs Vizzard, also the Jossers plus daughter, Connie fallen on hard times ,Mr Puffy going from.job to job and all in the summer of 1938 onwards with threat and then reality of war. No great moral.issues and some strings not tied up though an ending which leaves some tragedy and some happiness ...more
Richard Vobes
One of my favourite books!
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The Patrick Hamil...: "London Belongs To Me" by Norman Collins 17 16 Oct 07, 2013 09:29AM  
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Norman Collins born 3 October 1907, died 1982, was a British writer, and later a radio and television executive, who became one of the major figures behind the establishment of the Independent Television (ITV) network in the UK. This was the first organisation to break the BBC’s broadcasting monopoly when it began transmitting in 1955.
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