Tag Archives: Brighton

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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Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books with a Single Setting – Brighton!

This week, The Broke and the Bookish have challenged us to come up with a top ten based on a single setting of our choice. I chose a place close my heart: the glorious city of Brighton and Hove, in which I attended university, met my partner and generally had a rather lovely time.

Brighton Rock beach

A scene from the 1947 film of Brighton Rock

Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, ‘“People change,” she said.
“Oh, no they don’t. Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.”’ 

From the TV series of Sugar Rush

From the TV series of Sugar Rush

Sugar Rush is a fun novel by Julie Burchill, who says:“When I came to live in Brighton & Hove, as we’re meant to call it, 16 years ago, it was like all my Christmases had come at once – even if they were covered in seagull muck.” 

Viaduct Road

Viaduct Road

Robert Goddard’s Play to the End involves the character living a few doors down from my boyfriend’s old house. All the cool people live in Viaduct Road. Another fun fact: my dad went to school with Robert Goddard, then known to all as ‘Bob’.

The University of Sussex campus: intentionally designed to look like a cat from the air.

The University of Sussex campus: intentionally designed to look like a cat from the air.

In Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, one of the protagonists works in the English department at my alma mater, the University of Sussex.

Vanity Fair

Much of the action in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair takes place in Brighton: ‘then [they] fell to talking about Brighton, and the sea-air, and the gaieties of the place.’

This is Nick cave assisting a local fire juggler new the Pavilion Gardens.

This is Nick cave assisting a local fire juggler near the Pavilion Gardens.

The Death of Bunny Monroe by Nick Cave (of and the Bad Seeds musical fame) is a sort of violent, 1990s Death of a Salesman. Nick Cave lives in Brighton and seems to like it now, despite past associations: ‘”Brighton,” he notes drily, “was where I used to come to try to get clean. So all I knew about the place was sweating it out in a hotel room for three days.”‘

I love this anecdote from one of Nick Cave’s book readings that his friend Will Self also attended: ‘There was a rather detailed question from the audience noting the similarities with Self’s 1993 novel My Idea of Fun (which also features a sex killer in Brighton, Self realises – seemingly for the first time), but Cave admitted that he hadn’t read this particular novel of Self’s and said to him in mock exasperation, “You could have told me!”’

The Brightonomicon

Here’s the blurb of Robert Rankin’s  The Brightonomicon: ‘Were you aware that there are, hidden in the streets of Brighton, twelve ancient constellations, like the Hangleton Hound and the Bevendean Bat? Well, there are, and on each one hangs a tale, a tale so strange that only The Lad Himself, that inveterate spinner of tales and talker of the toot, Hugo Rune, can get to the bottom of them.’

Regency ladies

In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia longs to visit Brighton, though Jane Austen had a pretty low opinion of it. She wrote to a friend, ‘I assure you that I dread the idea of going to Brighton as much as you do, but I am not without hopes that something may happen to prevent it.’ In the Regency era, it was where everyone went for a bit of scandal and debauchery.

Upper Rock Gardens

Upper Rock Gardens

Charles Dickens often stayed in Brighton. In Dombey and Son, the protagonist goes to stay  ‘in a steep bye-street at Brighton’, thought to be based on a house in Upper Rock Gardens.

I love being able to imagine the characters walking down the same streets that I have. Is there a location that’s special to you that you enjoy seeing in literature?


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