Wednesday, February 01, 2017
The Dig by John Preston
In my last post I mentioned a book I had been reading last week and how I hadn't been able to put it down. The book in question was called The Dig and was written by John Preston.
It is a novel about a true story and set in those hot summer months in 1939 just before the outbreak of the second world war.
Whilst the country prepares itself for war a battle of another kind is happening in farm land in Suffolk near the village of Rendlesham at the site of Sutton Hoo.
It is a battle of wills between local and national interests.
The author writes from the viewpoints of three of the main characters involved with the dig. Basil Brown is a local, self taught freelance archaeologist who is an expert on Suffolk soils. Edith Pretty, a widow with a young son, is the landowner who hires him to excavate the intriguing mounds on her land. Peggy Piggot along with her then husband Stuart Piggot is brought in to take over the dig by Cambridge archaeologist Charles Phillips and much to the dismay of both Mrs Pretty and Mr Reid Moir representative of Ipswich Museum, Mr Brown is relegated to just helping instead of leading the excavation. The first finds are sent to the British Museum and then they become involved too.
I just loved the way this book was written. Each of the characters came to life, their thoughts, feelings, excitements, concerns and dismays as the dig progresses and the boat is uncovered. I loved the descriptions of the land, the woods, the trips to the local town of Woodbridge, the shepherd's hut used by Mr. Brown and his helpers, Mrs Pretty in her chair watching them work whilst her hat, scarf or parasol shielded her from the sun. Even more I loved the descriptions of the characters and their interactions with each other, descriptions of few words which paint wonderful, colourful observational pictures.
The Dig is a short book, my version just 230 pages long, and in the way the author brings you straight into the situations he has created reminds me very much of my most favourite book J L Carr's A Month in the Country.
The wonderful illustration on the front cover of the book I borrowed from the library is by Clifford Harper.
Coincidentaly in his 'A Bit about Britain' blog Mike has recenty written about his visit to Sutton Hoo here is a - link - to his post.