Twenty years ago Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation's heart and became the best-selling travel book ever and was voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.
After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a while but before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells, people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and Gardeners' Question Time.
This is an album of songs from Guernsey, an island off Cornwall but much closer to Normandy. The music seems a combination of Celtic twang and French charm. One might call it folk music and I guess that's correct, but with the use of baroque guitars, shawms, cornetto and, of course, the medieval harp.
In the tradition of Desert Solitaire and Shop Class as Soulcraft, this is a remarkable debut from a major new voice in American nonfiction – a meditation on nature and life, witnessed from the heights of one of the last fire-lookout towers in America.