JUNE/JULY 2005
A review of

Divided Kingdom

by Rupert Thomson

Central question: What are the four corners of the human soul?
Format: 368 pp., cloth; Size: 6-1/4" x 9-1/4"; Price: $25.95; Publisher: Knopf; Editor: Gary Fisketjon; Print run: 25,000; Cover design: Chip Kidd; Typeface: Minion; Number of days between British and U.S. publications of Divided Kingdom: 71; Author’s previous occupation: advertising copy editor; Author’s current residence: Barcelona, Spain; Representative sentence: “Later, as I lay beneath a couple of rough wool blankets, I heard a ticking and though I knew there must be a clock in the room it was the pale dog that I could see, patrolling the corridors of the asylum, blunt head lowered, jaws ajar.”

After the collapse of civilization, the map of Britain has been redrawn. Its citizens have been diagnosed with one of four personality types—choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, or sanguine—and relocated to the appropriate Quarter (Yellow, Blue, Green, Red, respectively), each of which is as separate from the others as East Berlin was from West. Our narrator has been assigned to the Red Quarter, whose citizens are characterized by an overabundance of cheer and goodwill, but still he is haunted by the trauma of the initial Re-arrangement that tore him from his parents, and by a less explicable, lingering malaise. By the end of the novel, his attempts to restore what he is missing will have led him across all four Quarters of the divided kingdom.

So—what the hell kind of novel is this?

First, it’s a thriller. The premise is so bizarre, it’s almost impossible to imagine someone pulling it off, but Thomson does it—this is the kind of novel you dive into headfirst and read in a single weekend, the kind of novel whose combination of suspense, writerly grace, and knack for spectacle pull you straight through from beginning to end.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Dan Johnson

Dan Johnson grew up in the California desert and went to school in L.A. and New York. Now he’s in New Haven, where he’s still revising his first little novel and working at the record shop. Stop in and say hi.

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