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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson

Published in 2005, Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom presents us with a UK divided into four separate countries, each populated by people drawn from different personality types and reinforced by concrete walls, armed guards and razor wire. The connections with texts like Brave New World, 1984 and Gulliver’s Travels are obvious.

Thomson’s divided kingdom is structured according to the four temperaments, giving him the possibility of playing with the idea of psychological (inner) and physical (outer) borders, something he relishes.

There are many possibilities for metaphor and imagery in Thomson’s novels, and Divided Kingdom is no exception. During a description of a shipwreck, the narrator is rescued by a bigger-than-life-size wooden statue of Jesus, afloat on the waves, its arms stretched out in supplication.

The narrator, forever searching for his true identity, muses:

I had the constant niggling sense that I was only pretending to be myself. At times I could even detect flaws in my own performance. I put the kettle on. I poured cereal into a bowl. The flakes tinkled against the china like tiny bits of metal. Everything felt familiar, and yet the notion of familiarity was, in itself, strange.
As I reached for my glass of orange juice, a fly landed on my newspaper. It wasn’t a normal house fly. It was much smaller than that. In fact, if it had remained airborne, I’m not sure I would’ve noticed it at all. I leaned forwards to inspect the fly, but it chose that moment to rise unsteadily off the page. Seconds later it alighted on the edge of my plate. This time I was able to crush it. There was no blood, just a minute dark stain on my fingertip. I lifted the finger to my nose. The dead fly smelled exactly like a Brazil nut. I wondered what kind of fly it was, and how many more of them there were.

The book has its own website:, which contains an interview and a video clip and many other features.

4 Responses to “Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson”

  1. Lee says:

    I’m so glad you’re featuring Thomson. One of my favourite writers. I wish I had his gift for metaphor.

    jb says: Yes, the metaphors and similes are striking and apt, and isn’t it strange how he has been ignored?

  2. Lee says:

    Has he? His name crops up in blogs from time to time. Maybe we should start a campaign…

    I’m already looking forward to his new book this spring.

    jb says: I believe he’s more less consistently been passed over for awards. Mind you they are a bit of a lottery.

  3. M.E Ellis says:

    I dig the voice in that excerpt.


    jb says: I would have thought you’d know the Thomson books, Michelle. He knows how to keep things interesting.

  4. Iain Rowan says:

    Another thank you, for giving one of my favourite authors a mention. If I was told at gunpoint that I could only ever read the new books of one author from now on, and no other, I would pick Rupert Thomson. It was reading one of his novels that made me want to start writing myself. Which is amusing given that reading his novels also makes me think, why bother, this is what *proper* writing looks like.

    I do think that he’s underrated – at least in terms of audience. You can find a hundred quotes from critics praising him (and often complaining how underrated he is…), but I go on about how good he is to people at the drop of a hat, and usually they haven’t heard of him.

    Just before Christmas, I took a couple of personality tests at work. One of them, much to my surprise, analysed my responses to lots of questions and then placed me on a spectrum consisting of red, blue, green and yellow, each linked to a set of personality traits based on the concept of the humours, as filtered through Jung. The archetypes behind each of the colours didn’t quite match Thomson’s interpretation of the humours, but they weren’t far off in many respects. So, if The Rearrangement ever does come about, they’ll have a head start with me…

    jb says: Hi Iain, good to see you here. It’s great to know that there are people out there who read Thomson’s books. There have been times I thought I was the only one. Oh, and – something else, this – don’t do no more of them personality tests . . .