Here's a book to fall in love with: London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins. Why had I never read it before? Published in 1945, it's been around all of my life and more, waiting for me, waiting for all of us, a joyful, gallivanting brick of a novel (over 700 dense pages), thick with characters and vivid with detail, broad in scope and deep in feeling.
It is the late Thirties, in the shadow of the approaching war. In Dulcimer Street, near the Elephant and Castle, a motley cast of characters occupy the house owned by their landlady, the ferociously respectable Mrs Vizzard. There's a laddish mechanic and his adoring mother, an ageing chorus girl who now works in the cloakroom of a dubious club (the book would be worth reading for the character of Connie alone), a seedy medium down on his luck, a nasal night watchman who lives for his mealtimes and the snacks in between, and above all Mr and Mrs Josser (it comes as a shock near the end to discover their first names) - she grim and decent, he timid and adorable. The ordinary, the unglamorous, the kind of people who usually only have comic cameo roles in novels, but here take centre stage to become its heroes and heroines.
I don't often laugh out loud when reading - but here I was snorting and hooting. It is one of the funniest novels I have ever read. Hilarious but also poignant, sparky, shrew and generous hearted. Dickens meets soap opera. 700 plus pages is not long enough.
If you haven't already - read it now!