My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

Today I have a review of My Policeman, the third novel by Bethan Roberts which was originally published in 2012, for which I received a copy in anticipation of the film adaptation which is currently in production. With lots of excitement surrounding the film – which boasts the extremely popular Emma Corrin and Harry Styles amongst its cast – I was interested to dive in and find out more about this story that will soon be translated to the big screen. 

My Policeman is a love story predominantly set in 1950’s Brighton although the novel opens in the late 90’s as we meet narrator Marion, who we learn is caring for a man named Patrick in the aftermath of a stroke. From the start it is clear to see that this is not a love story with the happiest of endings, and one that had certainly resulted in a great deal of heartache through the years for all parties. As she tells her side of the story Marion addresses her husband Tom as she reflects on her mistakes and regrets, looking back on the events some forty years previously, and the way in which their paths were changed forever. Roberts has captured the era and the setting perfectly here, as we go back to the 1950’s and see a young woman smitten with the policeman who taught her how to swim. Unfortunately for Marion, her love is not enough for them both as Tom’s affections lie with Patrick, a museum curator who had moved to Brighton following a tragedy of his own. The passion between Tom and Patrick is inescapable, meaning Tom and Marion’s marriage is fraught from the offset, their marriage being one of keeping up appearances in an age where tragically homophobia was particularly rife. Roberts delves into the hearts of these characters and the challenges they face, with Marion starved of the intimacy she craves from the man she loves, whilst Patrick and Tom must keep their love under wraps to protect themselves and their reputations in a world that is against them, and I was gripped by their story as we got a deeper understanding of their relationships, and how they came under threat. 

I love books that alternate between different perspectives and timelines so these were elements that I really enjoyed in My Policeman. With aspects of the story told in both the 90’s and 50’s we immediately get a sense of the level of guilt felt by Marion over the years, and her perspective on the past events which had a detrimental impact to these lovers. I also liked that some of the story is told from Patrick’s perspective, through the form of his diary entries in which we get an intimate insight into the bond between Tom and Patrick. I really liked the way in which we got to hear these two different voices and saw their respective feelings for ‘their policeman’, and the way in which they both fought to maintain this love whilst facing conflicts between their own desires, and the rules set out for them by society. This was an emotional read which provides an evocative account of love, specifically what happens when you fall in love with the wrong person, or fall in love at the wrong time… 

My Policeman was a book that wasn’t always easy to read, considering the troubling reality of the persecution faced by these characters, but it is one that I enjoyed with its exploration of the complexities of love and human emotion, the mistakes we make in pursuit of the love we crave, and the mark it can leave decades into the future. 

My Policeman was published in 2012 by Vintage Books, with thanks to Vintage and Sarah Harwood for providing a copy for review. 

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