Divided Kingdom, by Rupert Thompson
One Kingdom, the previous United Kingdom, now divided into four separate –gated, fortified– republics along the humors established by Plato: choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine, and melancholic. Families are separated, and reassigned, along those humors. Thomas is wrenched from his family when he is eight and reassigned to the sanguine quarter. He grows up, muffled in an unrealized grief until one day he is given a glimpse of the memories he has forgotten. That glimpse will impel him to leave his successful life behind and journey through the land, a fugitive, to search the depths of his own psyche.
Divided Kingdom is a troubling novel, not only because it forces us, as we follow Thomas, to search our own personalities, but because it reduces the person to basics and that is uncomfortable. The story is predictable; there are four quarters, after all, and we surmise that Thomas will journey to all four, and we suspect that, before he “finds” himself, he has to be reduced to nothing, a white page, a “tabula rasa.” It is exactly what happens, but the journey itself is fascinating, if cheerless.
There is a sense of deep unfairness, of wanting to revolt, to refuse the premise of this book that we are, fundamentally, the sum, or a distillation, of four types. There should be more. Because this is a deeply disturbing book, because it forces you to rethink, not only who you are, but how you should interact with others, it is worth the read. Absolutely.
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