Lately I’ve been reading memoirs. It surprises me that I like them so much because I tend to read novels, and because I write fiction. I can’t imagine writing my own memoir. Too many people are still around to find out about it and hate me for it. I suppose I could sugarcoat it but I don’t want to get in trouble with Oprah, and nobody wants to read a memoir that’s all sweetness and light.
Jennifer Richardson’s Americashire, a memoir of her time living in a Costwolds cabin as the American wife of an English husband, is not all sweetness and light, although her wit and charm might mislead you. At first the story sounds like a walk in the country, and indeed, Richardson gives us maps of her favorite walking paths from village to pub to sheep-filled meadow. But we soon discover that her husband, whom she calls D, suffers from depression. This, and the question of whether or not to become parents, gives weight to this cozy tale.
I fell in love with the Cotswolds when I visited briefly years ago, and have long fantasized about living there. My English friends remind me I would hate the weather, but the book’s description sounded right up my country lane, and Richardson’s writing did not disappoint. This is a more realistic, less “cozy” version of English country life than Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. The author’s voice is confident and wry without being superior. There are even some laugh-out-loud moments, all of them earned:
The last time I faced this kind of formal-wear emergency imposed by the regulations of British society was a couple of years prior when, two days shy of Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot, I happened to hear mention of the fact that a lady’s hat had to cover her entire head to enter the Royal Enclosure. The reasonably priced number I had settled on weeks ago…was on the cusp of unacceptable. On a frenzied death march stopping in every milliner within a mile radius of Oxford Street, I parted ways with a considerable sum of money for my now-prized hot-pink, highly feathered pimp hat.
(She’s not kidding. I’m reminded of discovering the same type of hats in a London shop years ago, while traveling with a friend. We tried on several, giggling like crazy, until the shopkeeper’s glare finally shamed us into leaving.)
In Americashire, one can become caught up in the characters, settings, and country life, and forget the book is supposed to be about this couple’s decision about childbearing. That’s because the author is caught up in it all, too, and this allows her not to think about the decisions she must make.
Other complications arise toward the end, which I will leave for you to discover. Americashire is a jaunty walk through the English countryside, where every bump in the path makes the trip more memorable.
Petrea Burchard is a local Pasadena photographer, blogger, actress, voice-over talent, and now, author. She contributes book reviews to Hometown Pasadena, for which we and our readers are very grateful. Find more Petrea doings, writings, and photography at PetreaBurchard.comand LivingVicuriously.
Camelot & Vine can be bought locally at Vroman’s, the Pasadena Museum of History, andWebster’s Fine Stationers in Altadena. The ebook version is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Diesel, Smashwords, and the Sony eReader.