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Books | September Issue

The Last Wolf: The Hidden Springs of Englishness by Robert Winder

If there is one characteristic about being English, it’s navel-gazing on the subject of our exceptionalism. What is it that makes us so wonderful? From the most liberal to the more reactionary, whether your cause is contemporary diversity or Victorian chauvinism, you will find the national narrative is as flexible as it is fascinating. Robert Winder is the latest writer to contribute to the ‘Englishness’ debate – a subject he touched on in his book about immigration, Bloody Foreigners. In The Last Wolf, he reflects on how ‘English culture was to a large extent a product of its natural geography’ – he shows how the water, rocks and weather of our landscape created the conditions for the wealth and power that owed from wool, wheat and mining. It’s an entertaining, many-forked narrative about the interplay of people, landscape and economy. Winder has a confident, novelist’s touch with his material, encouraging...

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