My Policeman by Bethan Roberts has been turned into a film, starring Harry Styles, Emma Coririn, and Rupert Everett. The story is about, love, betrayal, and regret and centers around Tom, a Brighton policeman in the 1950s who marries his younger sister’s friend, Marion. Around the same time he starts “dating” Marion he meets Patrick, a posh museum curator who is Comme ça (homosexual). Patrick ignites a passion in Tom and becomes his first real love.
The novel opens in 1999 with Marion, now a retired school teacher, sharing a written confession, as she reflects back on her adolescent crush on of Tom and her determination to live happily ever after together with him. About 75-pages into the novel a second voice joins the narrative in the form of Patrick’s diary with entries from the mid-1950s.
Profoundly sad. This tragic love triangle provides a glimpse into a severely repressed society, the irreversible harm of life in the closet, and the difficulty it created for those who loved gay men and woman. Living in places like Western Europe and the US, it is difficult to imagine, but there remain pockets even in these more progressive parts of the world where some of this may still be a reality – and certainly the challenges facing Tom and Patrick are still very much a reality for a majority of LGBTQ+ people in the world.
Roberts unsentimental manner of discussing these challenges is bone chilling. Reading about how lives were ruined, many gay men and women opting to end their lives by suicide when found out, and how families of of LGBTQ+ were torn apart is difficult to imagine. Simply put – life was hell for the LGBTQ+ community.
In one passage, Patrick’s diary explains just how risky it was to even consider going out to a bar, “But even walking past the Argyle [gay bar] was risky… Of course, if one does go to bars, one learns to take precautions–go after dark, go alone, don’t catch anyone’s eye while walking down the street, don’t go into any establishment too near your own house.” The perverse glee the police took in cracking down on these ‘perverts’ and the lack of any advocates or allies – let alone laws to protect them – ensured their doom.
While this book lacks the happily ever after ending Marion so sorely wanted, her pragmatic conclusion and the gut-wrenching tragic ending was difficult to put down. If the movie can capture a fraction of the emotion, it will certainly be worth watching.
If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. You’ll be able to order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for My Policeman.