I feel as though I've been living and breathing this book for the past couple of days. The main characters felt so real and sympathetic and their predicament so desperately sad. I know it's only the beginning of March, but I've found a very strong contender for my book of the year.
Set in Brighton in the mid-twentieth century, the story centres around young policeman Tom Burgess and the two people who are in love with him - conventional schoolteacher Marion and cultured, erudite museum curator Patrick. This being the 1950s, Tom and Patrick have to conduct their relationship in secrecy (not least because of Tom's job), and Marion thinks all her dreams have come true when Tom asks her to marry him, little knowing that her troubles are just about to begin.
The book is narrated by Marion and Patrick in the form of journals - Patrick`s written at the time of his relationship with Tom, and Marion`s in the present day, directing her narrative towards Patrick after she brings him to live with her and Tom to recuperate following a severe stroke. We don't get to hear from Tom - just worship and admire him through the eyes of the two people who adore him. It was interesting to observe a character in this way; at times he came across as self-centred, cowardly and spoiled, and at others just vulnerable, confused and understandably very scared.
The impossible predicament of gay men and women in the mid-twentieth century is explored through Patrick's attempts to form a lasting and meaningful relationship against a background of prejudice, suspicion and fear, and the 1950s period detail is beautifully observed; everything from the clothing the characters wear and the food they eat through to Marion's involvement with the burgeoning CND movement, all adds to the evocative sense of time and place.
I loved this beautifully written, heartbreakingly sad story, the memory of which will stay with me for a long time.