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: http://www.dividedkingdom.co.uk, which contains an interview and a video clip and many other features.