by Bethan Roberts
Bethan Roberts has come up trumps with this moving story, set in a very evocative 1950s Brighton, of the eternal triangle where, sadly, everyone is a loser.
Marion meets Tom at the home of her friend Sylvie. Tom is blonde and handsome, a good sea swimmer with a great physique who smells attractively of pine talcum powder. Marion becomes infatuated and when Tom offers to teach her to swim how can she resist? To be held closely by Tom is what she dreams about. Sylvie tries to warn Marion that Tom is “different” - a warming she ignores, really because she doesn’t understand. Tom joins the police force while Marion becomes a primary school teacher and, as ostensible bastions of society, they marry.
Patrick is curator of fine art at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery who first encounters Tom in a rather comic incident when a woman is knocked from her bicycle. Patrick is smitten “I could see at once there was life pulsing beneath the rough dark wool of his jacket.” A friendship evolves and Patrick introduces Tom to the finer things in life, at first involving Marion, then as their relationship becomes more serious, Tom and Patrick find ways to exclude her. A trip to that most romantic of cities, Venice, tips the distraught Marion over the edge and her actions have devastating consequences.
The story is narrated in turns by Marion (in the present day) and by Patrick (from his journals) - and Bethan Roberts gets the voices just right. Our sympathies lie with all three protagonists. If only Tom and Patrick knew that just thirty or forty years later Brighton would be a place where they could be relaxed and open with their sexuality and where Marion would understand that “difference” is something to be celebrated.
MY POLICEMAN was chosen as this year’s book for Brighton City Reads.
Published by Vintage – 341pp