cover image My Policeman

My Policeman

Bethan Roberts. Penguin, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-14-313698-9

Roberts (The Good Plain Cook) serves up a complex and nuanced exploration of a love triangle in Peacehaven, England. The story begins in 1999 with the line, “I considered starting with these words: I no longer want to kill you—because I really don’t.” The speaker is Marion, and her listener, Patrick, whom she is caring for after he’d suffered a severe stroke, is her captive audience. Having baited this hook, Roberts then flashes back 48 years to provide the backstory for the dramatic opening. Marion explains how at 14 she met the third member of this romantic triangle, Tom, the slightly older brother of a school friend. Her infatuation with Tom continues into adulthood, after he becomes a policeman and, eventually, Marion’s spouse. But Tom and Patrick, a gay art curator, are also attracted to one another. Roberts cleverly changes narrators to provide alternate perspectives on the developing intricacies and intimacies, and is especially good with the sections in which Patrick describes the challenges of being gay in 1950s Britain, a period when sex between men was illegal and gay people were subjected to blackmail. It adds up to a moving depiction of human passions, frailties, and struggles. (Aug.)