My Policeman

Penguin Pr. Aug. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780143136989. pap. $17. F
Patrick Hazelwood, the former lover of Marion Burgess’s husband Tom, lies mute and paralyzed from a stroke, while Marion sits by his bedside composing a letter to him about the profound and unsettling effect he has had on her life. Excerpts from her letter alternate with Patrick’s diary, which offers his version of the same events. For each, the titular policeman in question is Tom Burgess. For Marion, Tom was her teenage crush, the handsome older brother of her best friend. In her letter, she recalls conniving to get closer to him by asking for swimming lessons; then, under pressure from both their families and from the police force, Tom becomes her husband. For Patrick, an urbane curator of European art who meets Tom at the Brighton Museum, he is the forbidden object of lust, then love, in a time and place (1950s England) when such love was considered unacceptable. For everyone to remain safe, Marion and Patrick must share Tom, but the results are catastrophic.
VERDICT Like Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, this latest novel by Roberts (The Pools) teems with sexual tension and the innocence and ignorance that caused so much heartache in the intolerant era just before the sexual revolution. This story is beautifully written and ineffably sad.
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