Another England by Caroline Lucas review – seeing green

Another England by Caroline Lucas review – seeing green

A progressive vision of the country’s literary and cultural history from the trailblazing MP

Caroline Lucas is leaving Westminster politics. After almost a decade and a half of ploughing what must at times have been a lonely and exhausting furrow as Britain’s first and so far only Green MP, she is standing down at the next election to focus solely on climate and nature. Her parting shot, however, is a book with a much broader and more ambitious aim, sketching out an alternative vision of England to the jingoistic and aggressive one conjured up by culture war squabbles over flags or singing Land of Hope and Glory at the Proms.

Though the idea that there are other ways to be English than getting misty-eyed about the white cliffs of Dover or nostalgic for the days of empire is obviously not a new one, in the current climate of increasingly belligerent nationalism it certainly bears repeating. What marks out Lucas’s contribution to what is fast becoming a whole new genre of books is that it’s not really a history or piece of contemporary reportage. Instead, it’s more of an armchair journey through England’s literary canon, from Chaucer to Shakespeare, the Romantic poets and Jane Austen. The lesson she takes from this diverse literary heritage is that “we do not need a single national story” but a whole range of them; and that for every nation-building myth co-opted by the conservative right, there are equally deep-rooted and authentic traditions the left could draw on to talk about what Englishness means to them.

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