- Author: Bethan Roberts
- Publisher: Vintage Books
- Publishing year: 2012
- Number of pages: 342
- ISBN: 978-0099555254
- My rating: 5/5
Discover the exquisitely told tragic tale of thwarted love behind the major new film adaptation starring Harry Styles.
It is in 1950s’ Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim in the shadow of the pier and Marion is smitten – determined her love will be enough for them both.
A few years later in Brighton Museum Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted with Tom and opens his eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world.
Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
Soon to be a major film starring Harry Styles.
Spoiler alert! For those who haven’t read this novel yet, my review will contain spoilers, so please refrain from reading it if you don’t want to get spoiled beforehand. ⛔️‼️
I co-hosted a read along group for this novel by Bethan Roberts, on instagram. And my my what a book, what a story! I seem to love the bittersweet tales of the love between men and the troubles it can offer them. (Cfr. Young Mungo & Shuggie Bain earlier this)
This book is told from two perspectives, Marion who is besotted by Tom, who she met at a young age and who is the brother of her friend Sylvie. And the other narrator is Patrick, a curator at the museum of art in Brighton. (Brighton is the scene, actually in my opinion Brighton is also a very important character in the book.) And Patrick as well is smitten with the enigmatic policeman, Tom.
First we meet Marion, a somewhat naive girl living in Brighton. She has her friend Sylvie, her wits and smarts and the dream of becoming a teacher. And she can’t swim, although living in a seaside town. But Sylvie’s brother, Tom, is willing to teach her to swim. Marion is immediately smitten by her best friend’s brother. So when he comes back from the army and after he becomes a policeman, they set out to sea to learn to swim. But Tom remains somewhat enigmatic to Marion, he’s the silent type and seems to hide something for her. But all that doesn’t matter because tom asks to marry her.
Enter Patrick, a 34 year old museum curator. Tom meets him when he’s on the beat, in his police cell, when Patrick comes calling upon him when a lady fell from her bike. Patrick, who is homosexual and has had an eight year long relationship with a man before, until that bloke offed himself and one he hasn’t yet completely gotten over yet until he meets and falls for the enigmatic silent Tom. But Tom is a policeman and in the fifties policemen tend to have a bad reputation, especially among the gay inhabitants of a small town like Brighton. Not knowing what to about his feelings, but also not wanting to let go of ‘his policeman’, he offers to draw Tom, as part of an art project he wants to work on. The two start meeting each other more often and start a very hidden but boisterous romance.
And thus we see both sides, Marion’s and Patrick’s, and in between is Tom, torn for his love for Patrick and his marriage with Marion… this love triangle works fine until one day one of them snaps and everything is just flipped upside down! This heartbreaking event leaves everyone beat and tears everything apart for the decades to come.
I truly loved how Bethan Roberts managed to find the two voices for Marion ànd Patrick. It’s as if we are really reading two different witness statements and the weird thing is that Patrick’s side felt easier to read (well, in the end his was hardest because of what happened) and Marion’s voice left you reeling and thinking her a plain selfish bitch… although you can also understand it, she looses her naivety and discovers she’s been lied to from the start…
And then there’s the part in the book that’s situated in 1999, 40 years after the events in the novel, where Marion writes all down and tells (confesses) to Patrick (and Tom) what happened all those years before… how something snapped, how she became very vindictive but also felt guilty all this time…
This is a story about desire, infatuation and jealousy for one man!
The story is so bittersweet and I was drawn into the romance between those two men. This is definitely one of the best books I read this year (along with Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo & Shuggie Bain) and I am now looking forward to its movie adaptation. I also hope Bethan Roberts would join our little group chat for the read along… 🤞🙌
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