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My Policeman by Bethan Roberts - Book Review

3 min read
My Policeman by Bethan Roberts - Book Review
My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

Table of contents


Tom, a policeman, catches Marion's and Patrick’s eyes. Both fight to win Tom over in 1950s England where being gay is a mental illness. Roberts tackles love, obsession, heteronormativity, sexism, jealousy, and so much more in My Policeman.



How I Discovered It

A friend’s favorite book.



Random thoughts on My Policeman. You’ll understand these if you read the book:

There’s a lot to enjoy.

In the beginning, Marion says, “This is a confession of sorts… When I am finished, I plan to read this account to you, Patrick, because you can’t answer back anymore.”

As we read, we discover the story between Marion, Tom, and Patrick. Marion starts to regret her decisions, and it seems like she has done all she can to make amends. But throughout recalling their story, she lets go of the last claim of Tom, allowing Tom to read Patrick her confession.

It’s a very satisfying ending when you reread the beginning. I like it.

Also notable is Roberts’s ability to switch styles. Marion’s chapters are lengthy and calculated. She writes in larger blocks of text filled with long sentences, and her writing seems more refined. Patrick’s writing is shorter and more chaotic, creating a journal-esque feel. He often writes incomplete sentences like “Will burn this after writing” and skips from one thought to another.

Although the style switching is impressive in its own right, Roberts manages to convey the same sense of obsession with different styles, and nothing feels forced. Marion and Patrick read like entirely different characters feeling similar emotions. It’s very impressive.

Seeing Marion slowly understand that “sexual invert” love is like any other is great. She wants to believe Tom's sexuality can change because of the cultural norm and position as her husband. But her conversations with Julia and Patrick convince her otherwise. Of course, it comes too late—but that’s the best part: Roberts depicts jealousy and love so well.

It’s impossible to say we don’t understand why Marion was a dick to Patrick, why she wrote the letter to Houghton, and why she visited Patrick in prison and “wanted to witness just how much misery you were experiencing.” The same goes for Patrick wanting Tom to stay in Venice, deciding to plead guilty, and repeating “he will always love him” while Bert was beating him up (heartbreaking).

And I always wanted to read more. There was always something to look forward to: the mystery of whether Marion and Tom would get together; how Tom’s and Patrick’s relationship with develop; whether Marion or Patrick would win Tom over; how Marion would respond to Tom’s outings with Patrick; what would happen between Marion and Julia; how Patrick would fare in prison; why Marion brought Patrick to live with her; why Marion and Tom stopped talking; whether Patrick would speak again.

This is one of three books in the past two years that has kept me turning the pages. I’m looking forward to rereading and enjoying the things I wouldn’t have noticed on the first read.

Top 3 Quotes

  • "We hadn’t yet become lovers, and in that photo there is something of the promise—and the threat—of what was to come."
  • "I tell you all this, Patrick, so you’ll know how it was between me and Tom. So you’ll know there was tenderness, as well as pain. So you’ll know how we failed, both of us, but also how we both tried."
  • "They are so obviously mismatched that I had to smile when I saw them together. I’ve always remembered that particular sentence. Your casual tone is what hurts the most. That, and the fact that you were right."
Michel Liao

Michel Liao

Boise, Idaho, United States
Hello! I'm a sophomore studying computer science at Princeton. I like reading, rock climbing, and running.