Monday, 26 October 2009

The Dig by John Preston

DATE PUBLISHED: 2007 DATE READ: October 2009 NOTES: At one level this is a very slight story: Landowner asks archaeologists to investigate the mounds on her land. They dig and find Anglo-Saxon treasure. But in fact The Dig is much more than a deceptively simple story. The book is a fictionalised account of how the Sutton Hoo treasure ship came to be excavated in 1939. The story is told from the point of view of different participants. There is the widowed landowner Edith Pretty, not in the best of health and still mourning the loss of her husband. Basil Brown is the first to start digging the site and is a self-taught archaeologist – an honest and simple soul. Peggy Piggot is the new wife of an archaeologist brought in for his expertise. She is also keenly interested in the excavations while at the same time aware that her marriage is not what she thought it would be. The touching epilogue is by Robert Pretty who eagerly watched the dig as a nine year old. This is a subtle and compelling read. Class conflict and professional jealousies abound in a gentle and understated way. The coming war looms large in the narrative – barrage balloons are sighted overhead and the air-raid shelter is dug. The reader gets the clear impression that the world is about to change…… A tender and entertaining book. Highly recommended.

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