Americashire is the story of an American woman married to a British man, who is persuaded to move to her husband’s country and finally ends up settling in a peaceful (but eccentrically British) village in the Cotswolds.
The story of their marriage, their move, the conflicts they survive and choices they make are interspersed with cheerful anecdotes about local events, interesting characters, and maps of local rambles suited to every possible circumstance (including “a walk to challenge your social preconceptions,” and my personal favorite, a “walk for when you’ve forgotten your pants”).
This is a lively and warmhearted commentary on rural British life, full of good humor and resilience. I admit to being a confirmed Anglophile myself, and the author’s description of the beauty of the English countryside in springtime made me homesick (for a “home” I’ve visited for all of two weeks, granted). The author’s descriptions and characterizations are deftly drawn, giving the reader a sense of vivid presence in the moment.
Richardson’s commentary on the village’s characters is witty and entertaining without being unkind, and her outsider’s perspective on local events comes across charmingly as half bemused anthropologist, half new kid eager to fit in. Against that colorful background, the author relates more serious events (arguments with her husband, battles with his recurrent depression, fears for her health, and worry over life changes) with wry humor and affectionate warmth.
The writing style is cheerfully tongue-in-cheek, so it is easy to be touched profoundly one minute and laughing out loud at a clever turn of phrase the next. The reader ends up feeling like an old friend invited over for tea, biscuits, and gossip.
Occasionally, the author seems a bit too detached, almost stereotypically the brash American commenting on quaint rural folk. However, she almost always catches herself in the process, poking fun at her own assumptions and preconceived notions.
This is a fine addition to the “English country life” genre, and will thoroughly charm the Anglophilic reader, or any fan of witty slice-of-life commentary. If you like Bill Bryson’s travelogues, give this one a try.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader