London Belongs to Me (Penguin Modern Classics)
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On the top floor lives Mr Puddy, a widower who, like most of the tenants and the house itself, has ‘known better days’. Well, how about Norman Collins – as well as author of 16 novels, he was controller of television at the BBC, and co-founder of independent television in the UK. Her loneliness and lack of spiritual solace puts her at the mercy of a charlatan, a self-proclaimed medium by the name of Mr Squales. When the novel opens, she’s still living at home, but this changes as she discovers a life outside the tight boundaries set by her parents.
Dickens likes to give his characters eccentric mannerisms and quirks and then hammer them into the ground so that every time the character appears his quirk never fails to get a mention.She is obsessed with Mr Squales in the same way that Otto Hapfel is with Hitler and Percy is with Doris and as with them, it brings out her cruellest, most ungenerous side. The character is definitely not respectable and you can see how exotic he would appear in pre-war London. He then moved into television and, as Controller of the BBC, oversaw the transmission of the 1948 Olympic Games. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.
The reason it caught my interest then, as I remember it, it was all about a big house in London and the stories of the various tenants who lived in it. In addition, the reprints of John Healy’s The Grass Arena have a quote from Daniel Day-Lewis on them, and John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (out in April) will have a quote from Robert Macfarlane, who provides the introduction. Although the Landlady is not one of the types represented among the playing cards, she was a familiar figure of the time. There was also a six-part television series in 1977, again with a roster of the best of British, including a young Trevor Eve.I have Saramago’s Blindness here, but like you I am discouraged by the long sentences and unbroken paragraphs, though others tell me he’s gripping once you attune yourself to his pace. This does not mean that the novel is insular; the reader sees much of the city through the characters and what they see varies enormously. 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. If you enjoyed London Belongs to Me, you might like Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. It drives Roman mad when I talk about turning our home into a boarding house should I ever end up as a widow.
More broadly, the characters reflect wider concerns, whether or not they themselves are consciously involved in them.This was the first organisation to break the BBC’s broadcasting monopoly when it began transmitting in 1955. One of the great city novels: a sprawling celebration of the comedy, savagery, eccentricity and heroism . I was delighted to read this wonderful review of a book I first read, and loved, many years ago when I was a teenager. They last saw the light of day in 2011, during rehearsals for Trevor Nunn’s production of Terence Rattigan’s 1941 play Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in which I appeared as Mrs Oakes – ‘the hotelier from hell’, as she was described in the Daily Mail review.