From the moment Marion first lays eyes on Tom – her best friend’s big brother, broad, blond, blue-eyed – she is smitten. And when he comes home from National Service to be a policeman, Marion, a newly qualified teacher, is determined to win him. Unable to acknowledge the signs that something is amiss, she plunges into marriage, sure that her love is enough for both of them…
But Tom has another life, another equally overpowering claim on his affections. Patrick, a curator at the Brighton Museum, is also besotted with his policeman, and opens Tom’s eyes to a world previously unknown to him. But in an age when those of ‘minority status’ were condemned by society and the law, it is safer for this policeman to marry his teacher. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
Unfolding through the dual narratives of Marion and Patrick, both writing about the man at the centre of their lives, this beautifully-told, painful, tragic story is revealed. It is a tale of wasted years, misguided love and thwarted hope, of how at a time when the country was on the verge of change so much was still impossible. Bethan Roberts has produced an intense and exquisitely raw yet tender novel, which proves her to be one of our most exciting young writers.
PRAISE FOR MY POLICEMAN
“From the faded glitter of The Argyle to the sexy seediness of The Spotted Dog, My Policeman skulks through the 50s Brighton underground gay scene like a rent boy in pursuit of a trick. Desperate love in a dismal age. I loved it…” Julie Burchill
“Dashing…a humane and evocative portrait of a time when lives were destroyed by intolerance.” Susanna Rustin, The Guardian Read the review
“Bethan Roberts’s third novel is a moving story of longing and frustration…The writing is fluid and tender…” Natasha Tripney, The Observer Read the review
“It’s pitch perfect – the awful grief and raw disappointment of the characters is devastatingly described…” Eithne Farry, Marie Claire
“My Policeman’ is a beautiful book – tender, truthful and deeply moving. I loved it.” Paul Burston
“In her two narrators, Roberts gives us two strong, absorbing voices, whose competing claims on our sympathies, complicated by our knowledge of subsequent events, make ‘My Policeman’ a satisfyingly taut and involving read.” Stephanie Cross, The Times Literary Supplement
“A gripping read” Viv Groskop, Red magazine
“My Policeman is a beautifully written modern tragedy… Bethan Roberts’ prose is elegant and sparing, her eye for period detail astute – but it is her ability to expose the oppressive state of 1950s Britain with regard to homosexuality that stuns. I doubt that many will know just how hard it was back then to be gay in the UK… From page one I could not put this book down, and by the final chapters I was rationing the words.” Andrew Kay
“Roberts deploys her research carefully, honing a novel with a strong period feel and a sprightly structure.” Richard Canning, The Independent Read the review
“This beautiful but heartbreaking book stayed with me for days after reading it… a love story set in a time when that love is forbidden. Keep the tissues nearby!” Essentials Magazine Read the review
“(B)eautifully rendered and observed…” Elizabeth Buchan, The Sunday Times
“Passionate…Captures the obsessive and destructive madness of sexual jealousy” Psychologies Magazine
“(One of) the coolest must-reads of the year” Stylist magazine stylist.co.uk
“Roberts has a light, effortless-seeming narrative style yet reaches tragic depths in her period account of repression and self-delusion. Deceptively easy reading with a long afterburn.” New Books Magazine Read the review
“The carefully depicted setting … serves to highlight the period-piece nature of (the characters’) predicament, which is adeptly conveyed by the interweaving narratives of Marion and Patrick as they both pursue their Adonis, capture him – and then try to deal with the consequences” Harry Ritchie Daily Mail Read the review
It’s summer 1936, and the world is on the cusp of change, but there’s little sign of this in rural Sussex. So when local girl Kitty Allen answers an advert looking for ‘a good plain cook’, she has no idea what she’s in for. For starters, her employer is an American called Ellen Steinberg who believes in calling the staff by their first names and sunbathing in the nude. Then there’s Ellen’s eleven-year-old daughter, Geenie, a bright, unhappy little thing, and Mrs Steinberg’s gentleman friend, Mr Crane, who’s said to be a poet – even though he doesn’t have a beard and doesn’t seem to write much poetry either.
Rich bohemians imagining themselves as communists, Steinberg and Crane see themselves as champions of ‘the people’ – not that they know the first thing about how the people actually live. Kitty is in no place to criticise – after all she claimed to be a good plain cook, despite hardly knowing how to boil an egg. Utterly out of her depth, she is relieved to have the gardener, Arthur, to talk to. Otherwise she’d never last a summer in this madhouse.
Ellen Steinberg wants life to run as smoothly as the love story she imagines her lover George Crane to be writing. But as Kitty arrives, the dream is on the edge of falling apart.
PRAISE FOR THE GOOD PLAIN COOK
“Delicious…Gorgeously written, full of teasing observations and love, class and cookery” Kate Saunders, The Times
“A subtly witty study of class tensions and general human folly” Elizabeth Lowry, The Guardian
“A beautifully observed portrait” Eithne Farry, Daily Mail Read the review
“Roberts looks set to be one of the must-read novelists of this summer” Tina Jackson, Metro Read the review
“Excellent…Has plenty to say about sex and class and says it with subtle wit and concision” John O’Connell, Time Out Books of the Year
Middle England, mid-1980s. The kind of place where nothing ever happens. Except something has happened. A fifteen-year-old boy called Robert has been killed, down by the pools. And half a dozen lives will come unravelled. There’s Kathryn and Howard, Rob’s parents. Kath has been making the best of her second marriage after the love of her life died young. Howard has been clinging onto a family life he hardly expected to have. There’s Joanna, the teen queen of nowheresville. She’s been looking for a way out, escape from her parents’ broken marriage. She thought Rob might take her away from all this, but lately she?s started to think Rob might have other plans. And then there’s Shane, with the big hands and the fixation on Joanna. Bethan Roberts’ strikingly assured debut novel subtly reveals the tensions and terrors that underpin apparently ordinary lives, and can lead them to spiral suddenly out of control.
PRAISE FOR THE POOLS
“Bethan Roberts is a fearless writer…compelling” Louise Welsh
“An unsettling and disturbing tale of awakening sexuality and predatory parents” Patricia Duncker
“A cool and relevant novel…expertly crafted” Sunday Express
“A sense of controlled menace broods over every scene” Catherine Taylor, Guardian
“Brilliantly illuminating…a beautifully understated debut” Viv Groskop, Easy Living
“Haunting” Time Out
Bethan Roberts was born in Abingdon. Her first novel The Pools was published in 2007 and won a Jerwood/Arvon Young Writers’ Award. Her second novel The Good Plain Cook, published in 2008, was serialized on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime and was chosen as one of Time Out’s books of the year. My Policeman, the story of a 1950s policeman, his wife, and his male lover, followed in 2012, and was chosen as that year’s City Read for Brighton. Her latest novel, Mother Island, is the recipient of a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered prize. She also writes short fiction (she has won the Society of Authors’ Olive Cook Prize and the RA Pin Drop Award), and drama for BBC Radio 4. Bethan has worked in television documentary, and has taught Creative Writing at Chichester University and Goldsmiths College, London. She lives in Brighton with her family.