A succinct and witty literary venture that tells the strange story of a priceless treasure discovered in East Anglia on the eve of World War II In the long, hot summer of 1939, Britain is preparing for war, but on a riverside farm in Suffolk there is excitement of another kind. Mrs. Pretty, the widowed owner of the farm, has had her hunch confirmed that the mounds on her land hold buried treasure. As the dig proceeds, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary find. This fictional recreation of the famed Sutton Hoo dig follows three months of intense activity when locals fought outsiders, professionals thwarted amateurs, and love and rivalry flourished in equal measure. As the war looms ever closer, engraved gold peeks through the soil, and each character searches for answers in the buried treasure. Their threads of love, loss, and aspiration weave a common awareness of the past as something that can never truly be left behind.
John Preston is the arts editor and television critic of the Sunday Telegraph. He is the author of three highly acclaimed novels, including Kings of the Roundhouse (2005), and a travel book, Touching the Moon. He lives in London.
The Dig 3.2 out of 5based on
dudara on LibraryThing
5 months ago
The Dig is a short novel set around the discovery and excavation at Sutton Hoo in 1939. England was facing the prospect of a war, and pressure was being exerted from officials to complete the excavation prior to the outbreak of hostilities. It is against this background that the characters move.We never spend too long with one character, moving quickly from one to another. We occasionally glean anecdotal pieces of information above a previous character as we are treated to the experiences of another. It's an easy novel to read, and makes a pleasant change to the recent trend to write tomes. However though, you may find the character development unsatisfactory or incomplete due to the short length of the novel. Personally I liked it, as it permitted me the opportunity to imagine the inbetween parts.It's a quite touching novel, as we are revealed the fustrations and loves of the characters. The author manages to accomplish this quite well over a short space.All in all, a refreshing change of pace.
veronicay on LibraryThing
5 months ago
This got rave reviews when it was published a couple of years ago, from readers as diverse as Ian McEwan ( ¿engrossing, exquisitely original¿), Robert Harris (¿enthralling...original¿), and Nigella Lawson, who was so absorbed she skipped lunch.I don¿t really understand all the hype. It was a pleasant enough (short) read; Preston writes beautifully, but at the end I did wonder what the point was. The novel is so understated as to be almost inaudible; all that is clear is that he¿s drawing parallels between the digging up of the frail remains of things and the excavation of his characters¿ repressed thoughts and feelings. It¿s rather reminiscent of On Chesil Beach in that sense, although McEwan was excruciatingly forensic in his description of the young couple on their wedding night. Here, small, isolated incidents are reported, but just as you feel something is going to happen, Preston moves on to something else. In the end you know as much about the characters as you would if you had dug up their material remains in 600 years -- which is of course part of the poin of the bookt. Footnote: I hadn't realised till I read the other reviews here that Peggy Pigott was Preston's Aunt, and it was this almost chance discovery that spurred him to visit Sutton Hoo and write the book. This too gives some insight into how much of our own and our family's past can be hidden from us.
catherinestead on LibraryThing
5 months ago
A nice enough piece of historical fiction about the excavations at Sutton Hoo in 1939, told from the first-person perspectives of the landowner and two of the archaeologists. There's lots of period atmosphere and masses of archaeological detail, and the characters are well-rounded and well-explored, but I couldn't help feeling that sort of petered out rather than ending properly. It's pleasant and understated, and perhaps the kind of book that might appeal to those who liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
almigwin on LibraryThing
5 months ago
In Britain, right before WWII, an ancient burial mound was uncovered by local archaeologists in Sutton Hoo. It was a pre viking boat used as a burial chamber, possibly for a king. The boat itself disintegrated, as did the body, but there were gold artifacts found. The characters are well drawn, but their plot lines are meagre. I would have liked more about the history of the find itself, and more about the wonderful characters that were just barely sketched out.
CarltonC on LibraryThing
5 months ago
A very well written, but very understated book. Although you can see the parallels that the author is drawing between the lives of the characters involved in the excavation of the Sutton Hoo archaeological dig and the dig itself, this adds very little to their characterisation and just makes you think that the author is being clever. But the novel does not engage the emotions because it is so understated and you do not feel involved with any of the characters for long enough.
More than 1 year ago
I had vaguely heard of the Sutton Hoo discovery when I requested this book. But I liked the synopsis of a retelling of an important historical discovery. Kindof like Indiana Jones in book form. Well The Dig was not Temple of Doom, but it was a fast, fun read that encompassed history and a little drama in a pre-war setting. A widow, Mrs. Petty and her young son live in Sutton Hoo surrounded by earthen mounds. On the verge of World War II she contacts with a freelance archeologist to find out what is inside. Uncovering much more than they thought, other organizations come to claim the find and to rule The Dig.
The plot of The Dig was very interesting. Based on real events, it supposed what might have been said and how the parties acted. The writing of John Preston was succinct and strong. He made a very dry situation enjoyable and intriguing. However, I was confused at some points as the various parties involved all blended together. The pacing was good; it followed a very specific time line. The world created was also good, as it was based on real locations. There was not a strong emotional tie in the storyline as it was more fact based and less focused on feelings. I enjoyed the characters as they were all strongly rooted in their ideals. However, a few of the archeologists seemed interchangeable.
I enjoyed The Dig and liked getting out of my usual reading categories. As not a huge history buff, some scenes were a little dry for my taste, but that did not hamper my enjoyment much. John Preston created an interesting take on a historical fiction and I would recommend. It was interesting to enter that time in such a specific way.
Original review @ 125Pages.com
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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