Divide and Rule by Rachel McLean #BookReview #BlogBlitz

Jennifer Sinclair’s fight to save her political career, her family and her freedom has failed. Traumatised by prison violence, she agrees to transfer to the mysterious British Values Centre.

Rita Gurumurthy has betrayed her country and failed the children in her care. Unlike Jennifer, she has no choice, but finds herself in the centre against her will.

Both women are expected to conform, to prove their loyalty to the state and to betray everything they hold dear. One attempts to comply, while the other rebels. Will either succeed in regaining her freedom?

Divide and Rule is 1984 for the 21st century - a chilling thriller examining the ruthless measures the state will take to ensure obedience, and the impact on two women.

I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for Divide and Rule, the second book in Rachel McLean's Division Bell trilogy today. Many thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my advance ecopy of the novel.

I reviewed the first book in the Division Bell trilogy, A House Divided last month and said that in the current political climate it is speculative fiction that felt only too real. In Divide and Rule, the country is descending further into a dystopia but the book is still chillingly plausible. Although I'm sure this novel could be read without having read the previous book, I would strongly recommend reading the series in order to fully appreciate the series arc.
Following the emotional events in A House Divided, Jennifer Sinclair's fall from the upper echelons of the political establishment seems complete. She is in prison after being found guilty of harbouring a suspected terrorist but is offered the chance to be moved to the rather sinister sounding British Values Centre. The chapters in the book are told from the alternating perspectives of Jennifer and her fellow inmate, Rita Gurumurthy. Their responses to their predicament are very different; Jennifer believes she can play the system and convince the authorities that she is ready to pledge her loyalty to the state, whereas Rita is determined to fight and refuses to kowtow to her oppressors.
Jennifer's strategy seems the most sensible and I couldn't help but admire her dogged determination to secure her release. Her rapid change in circumstances is shown to be a bewildering experience for her as she realises that any influence she believed she once had is gone. However, it is Rita's story that I found to be the most poignant. Up until her arrest, Rita was a teacher but now finding herself locked up without a trial, she recognises that she is responding to her predicament in the same manner as some of the teenagers in her care. Her frequently belligerent actions may often seem foolish when she could have chosen an easier route in her bid for justice but her refusal to back down on her beliefs or to co-operate with this corrupt system is thoroughly admirable.
Divide and Rule is a strong character driven novel - Jennifer and Rita are at the heart of it but several of the other characters in the story are all thoroughly compelling whether sympathetic figures or otherwise; the other women in their support group; psychiatrist, Mark; Meena, a former patient/inmate now turned counsellor; and Centre Governor, Yonda all have important roles to play. The thought-provoking plot examines how divide and rule policies have set the people against one another with some prepared to report their friends and colleagues because they either support the aims of the regime or are just desperate to protect themselves by proving their loyalty to their country. Rachel McLean's book will challenge readers to consider how they would respond to such policies - how many of us would resort to only obeying orders to protect ourselves? Divide and Rule imagines a different UK to the one we live in but it's not difficult to picture the alternative. Since 2014, schools have been expected to promote fundamental British values but how that phrase is interpreted varies widely so what would happen should the Government take an even more authoritarian stance? You only have to see the response to athletes taking a knee in America to see how a perceived lack of patriotism results in real anger and can be used both politically and socially to further a nationalistic cause.
Divide and Rule is a fascinating second book in this excellent trilogy and though it may not be a comforting read, it is a sharply observed, intelligent and provocative novel. I look forward to reading Divided We Stand soon and I'm intrigued to see whether Rachel McLean will give us the happy ending we're as desperate for in real life as we are in our fiction or if she will leave things as bleak as the direction they often seem to be heading in now.

Divide and Rule is published by Catawampus Press and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US. Look out for the #DivideandRule hashtag on Twitter or follow @rararesources to see more reviews from my fellow bloggers taking part in today's blitz.

About the Author
I'm Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I'm told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories - well, I'm sorry but I can't help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They're inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.
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