Jennifer Richardson on the IRDA Winning “Americashire: A Field Guide to Marriage”


What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, published April 23, 2013.

What’s the book’s first line?

“Spring in the Cotswolds happens very slowly and all at once.”

What’s the book about?  Give us the “pitch”.

When an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a two-hundred-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds, they’re hoping for an escape from their London lives. Instead, their decision about whether or not to have a child plays out against a backdrop of village fêtes, rural rambles, and a cast of eccentrics clad in corduroy and tweed.

Americashire begins with the simultaneous purchase of a Cotswold cottage and my ill-advised decision to tell my grandchild-hungry parents that I am going to try to have a baby. As I make the transition from urban to rural life, I am forced to confront both my ambivalence about the idea of motherhood and the reality of living with a spouse who sees the world as a glass half-full. Part memoir, part travelogue—and including quirky field guides to narrative-related Cotswold walks—Americashire is a candid, humorous tale of marriage, illness, and big life decisions.

What inspired you to write the book?  A particular person? An event?

Moving to the Cotswolds in late 2007 inspired the book. I had previously lived in London, and, prior to that, Los Angeles, so my experience of rural life was non-existent up until that point. I was so captivated by the countryside that I felt compelled to start writing it all down. The other thing that inspired the book was more of a non-event, by which I mean the failure of my biological clock to start ticking at the appointed time. I wanted to write about the experience of trying to decide whether or not to have kids in the context of that reality.

Also, I have always been a fan of “idyll memoirs” of the Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes variety. I was struck that no one had done for the Cotswolds what they did for Provence and Tuscany, and I also liked the idea of updating the genre with a more personal narrative thread—the motherhood decision— than was perhaps fashionable in the pre-social media era of those books.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?  Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

This is a challenging one to answer since, as a travel memoir, the main character is me. I suppose the most distinctive thing is how long it took me to admit what I already knew about my desire to have kids. As one reviewer put it, “Richardson’s process of reproductive decision making is as genuine and as circuitous as the country walks she beautifully documents.”

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

Like all travel memoirs, the main reason someone should read this book is for a little written vacation to a beautiful corner of the world without having to set foot on a plane. It’s about the landscape of the Costwolds—not just the flora and fauna, but also the inhabitants, the food and drink (lots of it), and the events that characterize the place. There’s a catastrophe or two, but nothing too disastrous, and mostly I think you’ll laugh along the way.

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