Book Review: Finally, a book by an American expat living in the Cotswolds! I love reading memoirs by expats writing about their new country, but I find many books about Italy, France and Spain, and few about England. Perhaps expats in England don’t see life here as different enough from life in the US to write a book about it. But, they are wrong, and Jennifer Richardson in her book Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage proves that.
Jennifer gives us a wonderful glimpse into her life and the three years she spent living in the Cotswolds. Jennifer is an American married to a Brit and both were working in London. When they decided they needed a weekend getaway, the bought a 200-year-old cottage in a Cotswolds village and joined the “weekenders” from London.
I really enjoyed this book, not just for the details about the Cotswolds but also for the look at her life as she writes about marriage, career and how to live. Jennifer and her husband were making some big life decisions including whether or not to have children.
Jennifer goes into wonderful detail about life in the Cotswolds. Even though I live in the Cotswolds (we just passed our three year anniversary of living here), I learned a lot.
I asked Jennifer a couple of questions about living in the Cotswolds.
Pauline: Do many Brits working and living in London have weekend countryside getaways?
Jennifer: I don’t know a statistical answer, but judging by those My Perfect Weekend-type interviews you often find at the back of UK newspapers, one certainly gets that impression! The people who appear in such pieces are always getting out of town to their country places come Friday night. In our Cotswold town weekenders were, in fact, the exception rather than the rule. I think that weekenders may seem more prominent than they are simply because their cars, apparel, and/or the volume of their conversations often make them stand out. And, I suspect, because locals secretly enjoy having something to complain about, they may exaggerate the nature of the “problem.”
Pauline: What do you see as the differences between rural life in the US and in England?
Jennifer: It’s a bit hard for me to comment on this one because I have always lived in suburban or urban spots in the US. I have, however, lived in the deep South in the US and noticed that Gloucestershire has a number of similarities. These include good manners, conservative political views, and bumper stickers about guns (“Toot if you shoot” was often spotted in our favorite Cotswold pub parking lot). One major difference is that, despite being politically to the right, the Cotswold population seems to be much more conservation-oriented — dare I say green, even — than their political counterparts in the US. Another difference is that you would never see an evangelical megachurch in the Cotswolds, not that I want to give the C of E any ideas about boosting its flagging membership.
Jennifer Richardson is an American Anglophile who spent three years living in the heart of The Cotswolds, England, after she and her British husband bought a two-hundred-year-old cottage on a whim. A picturesque network of hamlets, villages, and market towns in southwest England, The Cotswolds is well known for its honey-colored stone cottages, stately homes, and stunning scenery. Jennifer and her husband hoped for an escape from their London lives, but instead, their decision about whether or not to have a child played out against a backdrop of village fêtes, rural rambles, and a cast of eccentrics clad in corduroy and tweed.
Part memoir, part travelogue, and interspersed with field guides to narrative-related Cotswold walks, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage (She Writes Press/ May 2013/ $15.95) by Jennifer Richardson, begins with the simultaneous purchase of their Cotswold cottage and the ill-advised decision to tell Jennifer’s grandchild-hungry parents that she is going to try to have a baby. Just when she is settling into English country life, she is forced to confront not only her ambivalence about the idea of motherhood, but an attack of non-alcohol-related slurring that turns out to be the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.