I must be the last person in the world to have discovered the recommendations on Amazon – not the automated recommendations conjured up by some algorithm, but the ones written by customers with (hopefully) similar tastes to you. It has revolutionised my book buying – or certainly one list has because I have loved everything I have bought from it so far. And few things make me happier than a book I am really enjoying...
That is how I came across My Policeman, Bethan Roberts’ moving tale of Tom Burgess (the policeman of the title) and the two people who loved him – his down-to-earth wife Marion and Patrick, a debonair museum curator.
It is told through the characters of Marion and Patrick, he in a contemporary journal (written for himself and therefore of dubious authority) and she 40 years later after she has taken Patrick in to recuperate after a severe stroke.
This split timing is a clever, if a bit contrived, device for examining the different attitudes towards homosexuality from the 1950s to the present day.
Because this book is at heart a tragedy: the tragedy not only of a man forced by the prevailing morals of the time to live a lie, but also of the other two characters both vying for his affections but neither certain of their place in them.
Tom himself is conspicuous by his absence – or at least we only see him through the eyes of two people who are in love with him. But as we read their accounts we get to understand what it is that attracts Marion and Patrick and also what allows the tragedy to unfold.
A really good book and a reminder, if one were needed, of how intolerance can ruin lives.