Two Tribes

Two Tribes cover image

Bursting with brilliantly thought-provoking ideas on almost every page, Two Tribes is one of these rare novels that leaves you looking at the world in a new way.’ James Walton, Reader’s Digest.

Read this for his mordant dissection of tribalism — why the sense of belonging can become so desperately destructive.’ Simon Ings, The Times.

‘Brilliantly and chillingly imagined.’ Jude Cook, The Guardian.

Two Tribes holds up a mirror to our fractured times, stripping away the shallow concerns of contemporary politics with razor-sharp observations.’ Jamie Buxton, The Daily Mail.

Most of the story takes place in the latter half of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, and is about a brief love affair between a man and a woman who come from opposite sides of the Brexit divide and from very different backgrounds. But it’s told by a future historian in the harsher and bleaker England of 2266.

Some personal thoughts about this book:

I don’t think it’s my job to exaggerate the ugliness of rival tribes, or big up the heroism of my own…

…Just as we see through every religion but our own, so we tend to assume that the flags flown by rival groups are either the product of delusion, or a cover for self-interest, but take our own flags at face value...

...I was very saddened by the referendum result, but I thought to myself, how would it be if instead of looking at all this as me living in an island of correctness in a sea of error, or an island of decency in a sea of intolerance, I was to look at it more in the way that, say, an outsider looks at the political geography of Belfast…

Online reviews:

Review by Robin Brooks (GeekDads), here.

Review by Sarah Brown (‘Harry’s Place’), here.

Review by Matt Bone (Boney Abroad), here.

Review by Gareth D Jones (SF Crowsnet), here.

Review by Matt Finch (Mechanical Dolphin), here.

Full Guardian review here.

Full Daily Mail review here.

See also:

James Walton, Books of the Year, Spectator, 2020

4 thoughts on “Two Tribes”

  1. Chris,

    I’ve only just finished Two Tribes, 9 months after its release, despite having bought it as a pre-order in hardback. As the book was released the political situation in the country surrounding Brexit was still eliciting a lot of raw emotions in me and I couldn’t face reading your novel at the time. I knew Two Tribes was about a relationship between a Leaver and a Remainer and I guess I was afraid that the story was going to be an attempt at some sort of reconciliation between the two tribes and I wasn’t prepared yet to forgive or forget.

    With the passage of time and a pandemic I finally felt able to read the novel which I greatly enjoyed. It definitely held up a mirror to this period in British history. I am sure you will be unsurprised to hear that my feelings regarding Brexit haven’t changed but I definitely found the novel cathartic for some reason that I don’t understand. As a chronicle of the feelings and conversations people had during these times I think you have done an excellent job, I related to the conversations and thought in the novel a lot.

    I imagine a group of secondary school children studying your novel in 20-30 years time and being completely unable to fathom why everyone in the book is so upset. I look forward to rereading this book in 5-10 years time and I wonder whether I will equally be unable to relate to the anger and frustration or will these feelings be brought to the surface again? Perhaps (hopefully not) they will have been with me the whole time and never really disappeared.

  2. Hello Kevin, Thanks very much for getting in touch, and I’m so pleased you enjoyed the book in spite of your original, and understandable, reservations. My hunch is that what we are seeing is the crumbling of an old alliance between working class voters and liberal middle class voters, with working class voters turning to new allies, and, for me, that is what the novel is mostly about. I agree it will be fascinating to see how things have panned out in 10 or 20 years, and how we all feel about it then.

  3. Hi Chris,
    read Two tribes when it came out and really loved it – mostly because it’s an uncomfortable read when you’ve always identified with the lefty, arty, liberal side and have to ask difficult questions about your own assumptions…But this message is more because I finished Marcher last night, and on p.300 (Cosmos books edition) Fran says to Charles that they couldn’t be a couple if only because ‘You read the Guardian and I read the Daily Mail’! 🙂
    I guess this echo between those two novels so many years apart goes to show how writers’ ideas can be pursued over a long time…Some echoes to be found in Tomorrow as well, which, narratively, is an absolute winner! Please keep on writing great books, we’re grateful for them 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for writing, Vincent. It means a lot to me. Yes, I guess I do have certain themes which I keep coming back to!

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