About the Book:
It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten—determined her love alone will be enough for them both. A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
In this evocative portrait of midcentury England, Bethan Roberts reimagines the real life relationship the novelist E. M. Forster had with a policeman, Bob Buckingham, and his wife. My Policeman is a deeply heartfelt story of love’s passionate endurance, and the devastation wrought by a repressive society.
Set in the repressive era of 1950’s Britain, this is a profoundly beautiful and tragic story of two people who love the same man. The book is surprisingly told only in the points of view of Marion and Patrick, who both love Tom, the policeman of the title.
Marion becomes smitten with Tom the very first time she sees him, the older brother of her best friend.
“He was leaning in the doorway with the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to the elbows, and I noticed the fine lines of muscle in his forearms. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen – barely a year older than me; but his shoulders were already wide and there was a dark hollow at the base of his neck. His chin had a scar on one side – just a small dent, like a fingerprint in plasticine – and he was wearing a sneer, which even then I knew he was doing deliberately, because he though he should, because it made him look like a Ted; but the whole effect of this boy leaning on the door frame and looking at me with his blue eyes – small eyes, set deep – made me blush so hard that I reached down and plunged my fingers back into the dusty fur around Midnight’s ears and focused my eyes on the floor.”
Marion’s friend tries to tell her that Tom will never be interested in her “that way”, but since those things were simply not discussed at that time, nothing is ever explicitly said. Homosexuality was illegal in Britain then, punishable by prison. Marion is deeply in love with Tom, as is Patrick, who works for the local Brighton art museum and must hide his homosexuality.
Patrick is intelligent, cultured and sophisticated, and Tom gravitates towards him. But they can never openly express their love for each other so they must hide their true feelings. Tom eventually marries Marion, who realizes very early in her relationship with Tom that she will always share him with Patrick.
The book begins with Marion writing down her story for Patrick, who has suffered a stroke. The author brings the setting of Brighton, England, to life, and details the extremely repressive morals of the time. Patrick also tells his story in the form of his diaries, and we see how tragic it is that he is forced to hide his true self. He must live a secret double life because having a gay relationship is not only a crime but also looked down upon. His bravery and intelligence broke my heart.
Marion’s ultimate jealousies lead to devastating consequences, but even though she is an unsympathetic character, she also was forced to live a painful and unsatisfying life. The ending was very quiet and dignified, and left open the possibility of Marion’s redemption.
I was fascinated by the author’s meticulous attention to detail and the description of life in 1950’s Britain. I read this book over the course of one day and will never forget it. I cannot wait for the movie version of this book and hope that it captures all the painful, beautiful details of this exquisite story. Highly recommend!