Goodbye Europe is a collection of pieces by various artists and writers of various backgrounds and focuses that looks at Britain’s connection to Europe and people’s feelings about being European post-Brexit. Perhaps inevitably, it is predominantly pro-Europe and pro-Remain, featuring a variety of personal recollections of times in Europe, thoughts on Brexit and national mentality, and the odd bit of fiction or humour.
Even for Remain-supporting readers, it is quite a strange experience to read it. Most people are sick of hearing about Brexit by now, or have been trying not to think about it any more than necessary for their own mental wellbeing. Many of the pieces are undeniably good, but there is something jarring—especially as a twentysomething reader—to hear how great it was to visit Europe in the 1970s and 80, or have the chance to live there. Perhaps it is a book for older people who can look back with a plethora of memories of Europe, rather than a desperate wish for those days not to be over.
One of the best piece is one by a fifteen-year-old who won a prize to be included in the collection, because it strikes a chord with how many young people felt about their future and their hopes and dreams after the referendum, especially those too young to vote. The humorous inclusions are good, too: like watching Have I Got News For You, repetitive news is good to find jokes in. Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to be in there to provide “balance” or as a kind of publicity stunt, particularly as it seems unlikely many people who strongly believe in leaving the EU would buy or read a collection of essays which are almost entirely pro-Europe.
The collection doesn’t feel like it has much hope for the future, though a few of the contributors have a stab at suggestions. The real audience for this book has got to be people with decades of memories of feeling European and visiting Europe, who want to enjoy thinkpieces and reminiscences that often look back to these times. It is fond, but for younger readers, it is like being told how great things were before you were born, or old enough to appreciate them.