My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

my policemanI have a fascination with books set in Brighton. My familiarity with the city means novels set there instantly have keen verisimilitude. In My Policeman, Marion, Tom and Patrick live round the corner from me, sixty years ago. Inspired by E. M. Forster’s relationship with a married policeman, Roberts’ novel is at its heart a love story. Marion loves Tom, a young policeman who swims in the sea each morning. Tom loves Patrick, a curator at the museum. Patrick loves Tom too, very deeply. Being gay was illegal in the 1950s, so Tom marries Marion for respectability, but Patrick is an ever-present third party in the relationship. It is a difficult situation with multitudinous consequences.

The narrative is split between Marion’s letter to Patrick, written in the 1990s looking back on their lives, and Patrick’s contemporaneous diary. Marion got on my nerves all the way through, though I assume she is there to represent a sort of public conservatism and naïveté. I much preferred Patrick’s account, full of wit, love and pathos. The next real humans I saw had to endure me talking about the characters and their actions as if they were real, because it’s the sort of book that begs to be discussed. When I had just finished it I was frankly rather annoyed at it, but if it hadn’t been a strong novel I wouldn’t have cared enough to have such a reaction.

Have you read it? What do you think?

 

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