Who Are We Now?: Stories of Modern England (Hardback)Jason Cowley (author)
Taking a number of the most emotive and intriguing stories of Britain's twenty-first century as his jumping off point, New Stateman's editor-in-chief provides a compelling argument for how the United Kingdom became so divided and offers persuasive solutions for restoring harmony.
In this compelling and essential book, Jason Cowley, editor-in-chief of the New Statesman, examines contemporary England through a handful of the key news stories from recent times to reveal what they tell us about the state of the nation and to answer the question 'who are we now?'
Spanning the years since the election of Tony Blair's New Labour government to the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, the book investigates how England has changed and how those changes have affected us. Cowley weaves together the seemingly disparate stories of the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay, the East End Imam who was tested during a summer of terror, the pensioner who campaigned against the closure of her GP's surgery and Gareth Southgate's transformation of English football culture. And in doing so, Cowley shows the common threads that unite them, whether it is attitudes to class, nation, identity, belonging, immigration, or religion.
He also examines the so-called Brexit murder in Harlow, the haunting repatriation of the fallen in the Iraq and Afghan wars through Wootton Bassett, the Lancashire woman who took on Gordon Brown, and the flight of the Bethnal Green girls to Islamic State, fleshing out the headlines with the very human stories behind them.
Through these vivid and often moving stories, Cowley offers a clear and compassionate analysis of how and why England became so divided and the United Kingdom so fragmented, and how we got to this cultural and political crossroads. Most importantly, he also shows us the many ways in which there is genuine hope for the future.
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 510 g
Dimensions: 244 x 163 x 32 mm
I can’t tell you how refreshing it is in these polarised times to read a book on politics that doesn’t have an axe to grind . . . It is wonderfully written, the pages littered with poetic and literary references, as you might expect from an outstanding journalist . . . an essential read. - The Sunday Times
Subtle, sophisticated . . . compellingly told . . . This is a gentle and intelligent book, refreshingly unpolemical and reflective. - Julian Coman, Observer Book of the Week
First-rate . . . [Cowley] is a broad-minded observer, a true liberal if that description may still be applied, and his elegance is all the more attractive for its absence of gloss . . . If you open this book for instruction, you may find much of value in the author’s selection of snapshots from his life and the lives of others. You will certainly read it with pleasure. - Michael Henderson, The Times
Interesting . . . there is a certain Orwellian (in the best sense) curiosity and insightfulness - Sunday Telegraph
As someone who zips around England — and the wider UK every week — this book really resonates with me. Wonderfully written with colourful and incisive accounts of contemporary England - Chris Mason, Presenter of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions?
A beautiful piece of storytelling – the British eyed from unexpected places, from China to the middle of the middle of the middle. The question will never go away but these answers help us a lot - Andrew Marr
A balanced, insightful analysis of the past 30 years of English politics and identity, taking in New Labour, immigration, Brexit and the pandemic. - Andrew Holgate and Laura Hackett, The Times '100 Best Books for Summer'
The New Statesman editor goes back to his Essex roots in this intelligent book about patriotism, which confronts Orwell’s puzzle: why is “England perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality”? - Philip Johnston, The Daily Telegraph 'Best Books for Summer'
Fascinating . . . a pleasure to read. Cowley has an eye and an ear for the small details that add emotional depth to his reports. - Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times
Urgent and timely . . . Cowley powerfully demonstrates how these vivid, half-forgotten stories have contributed to a fragmented England, and offers a vision for how we can embrace the lessons learned to build a bright new future. - Scarlett Sangster, Breaking News Ireland
A liberal and humane analysis informed by quiet patriotism. [Cowley] doesn’t try to define what England “is” or represents but searches instead for its emotional and cultural underpinnings . . . ruminative and reflective, informed by observation and without polemics. - John Freeman, Reaction magazine
National identity is at the heart of Who Are We Now? Stories of Modern England . . . It is told through a series of stories, merging the personal and the political – stories of conflict and division but also ultimately of hope. - Tom Gatti, New Statesman 'What to read this year: non-fiction'
A lyrical blend of the personal and the political, with echoes of Orwell, this book uncovers the hidden story of a fragmented nation. - Helen Lewis, journalist, broadcaster and author of Difficult Women
Jason Cowley’s well-researched reports and excellent analysis of modern England lead to two inexorable conclusions. "We" – the people of England – are certainly not who we once were; and "we" are far from agreeing who we mean when we talk of "us." Fascinating, disturbing and brilliantly insightful, especially on towns like Harlow in Essex which are not so much left behind, as overlooked and ignored. - Gavin Esler, author of How Britain Ends
Jason Cowley’s humane and sharply observed book aims to piece together what the Victorians called "the condition of England question", through meditations on Blair’s Britain through to Brexit, from civil war in Syria to Covid-19. Who Are We Now? is blessed by curiosity and emphathy for the many overlapping stories from Margate to Morecambe and beyond. The traps of the metropole are avoided and the result is a work of unobtrusive and softly spoken patriotism, written to stand the test of time - John Bew, author of the Orwell Prize-winning Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee
Cowley offers a haunting 'condition of England' masterpiece, the multiple Englands of his intimate stories elusive, at the mercy of forces far beyond any individual's hopes, somehow enduring. This is a beautifully written meditation of the recent English past and what understanding the plurality of Englishness demands of the English. - Helen Thompson, co-host of the Talking Politics podcast
Behind every electoral statistic, every social and political change is an evocative human story. With his characteristic clarity and flair Jason Cowley pulls out such particularly poignant, and redolent of the spirit of our times, stories. In doing so, he adds a crucial and often overlooked layer to our narratives of modern Britain and the historical tides of the last few decades. The lives of real people jump from these pages to form a rich tapestry, from the extremely dramatic to the most mundane, to shed light on what divides and what unites us, and what makes us the society we are today. - Maria Sobolewska, co-author of Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics.
I really recommend [Who Are We Now?], a wonderfully thoughtful, melancholy and moving read - Dominic Sandbrook, historian and co-host of The Rest is History
Terrific. Absolutely fascinating - highly recommended by me. - Iain Martin, editor of Reaction
A trenchant, but also moving, personal analysis of why England has become so divided, which finds hope for the future in the compassion for others that characterized the pandemic. - Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller Ones to Watch
Engaging . . . This is an important and readable book - a rare combination. - Neill Denny, BookBrunch
Despite the sadness and the concern, Cowley’s story is no jeremiad. He finds more grounds for hope than despair . . . The writing is excellent throughout, with an engagingly allusive literary quality. - Brendan Simms, Engelsberg Ideas
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