The Dig Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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 Petty, the widowed farmer, has had her hunch proved correct that the strange mounds on her land hold buried treasure. As the dig proceeds against a background of mounting national anxiety, it becomes clear though that this is no ordinary find....
And pretty soon the discovery leads to all kinds of jealousies and tensions. John Preston's recreation of the Sutton Hoo dig - the greatest Anglo-Saxon discovery ever in Britain - brilliantly and comically dramatises three months of intense activity when locals fought outsiders, professionals thwarted amateurs and love and rivalry flourished in equal measure.
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|Listening Length||6 hours and 48 minutes|
|Narrator||Simon Vance, Kate Reading, Fiona Hardingham, Derek Perkins|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||03 September 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 31,785 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
168 in World War II Historical Fiction
22,078 in Teen & Young Adult (Books)
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The discovery of the Sutton Hoo hoard is one of the pivotal moments in British archaeology and helped plug the gap in our understanding over the period following the departure of the Roman and the early medieval period of Late Saxon England. The finds occupy pride of place in the British Museum and the story of Basil Brown is in itself very English given the fact that he was a brilliant amateur.
I have to say that I think John Preston has really done Brown a disservice in this novel and compounded the problem by putting himself into the shoes of two female protagonists - something that always makes me uncomfortable with male writers. The novel has two undercurrents running through it. The first of these is to do with class and how Brown was ostracized by the archaeological "establishment" and the looming threat of Nazi invasion in 1939 - the irony being that the Saxons had themselves been Germanic invaders. However, my dissatisfaction with this novel goes well beyond this. I think the this book tries to be an archaeological equivalent of "The remains of the day" and the overriding problem for me is how something that was so exciting in real life can be rendered so dull on the page. The excavation itself is almost a sideshow to the novel but the sub-plots never seem to have much relevance to the plot.
I picked this book up immediately after reading an exceptional novel by William Boyd where the strength of his writing makes you overlook the rather incredible basis of the fictional plot. By contrast, I felt that Preston had taken something that was both true and incredible and rendered it dull and cliched. In my opinion both Brown and the site itself merited something better and I am now eager to see what the film makers made of this story to see if they gave the story it's just desserts. For a novel that should have had the reader glued to the page, this book was strangely unengaging. It has a similar feel to the novel written about 15 years ago called "The Damned" which was about Brian Clough's tenure at Leeds Utd. That book shared the same feel of not being quite right.
The story is told through five different narrators, although the last one is set in 1965 and is the son of Mrs Pretty, Robert who is mentioned in the tale. Here then Mrs Pretty, now a widow with a young son has been advised to gain the services of a certain Basil Brown to look at whether to investigate the mounds on her estate. As we follow, we see what happens when others start to get involved, and thus can see the politics of the Ipswich and the British Museum coming to play, and what this means for Brown and others who originally started the excavations. As the year is 1939 so we also can see how the country is starting to gear up in certain ways for war, and there are thus also the remembrances of characters to the First World War.
So, although there is quite a bit of fact and detail to the dig and how archaeologists worked at the time, and we can see the pressure that they were under due to impending war and had to cover up the ship, leaving it alone whilst hostilities began, this is more of a tale about people. We see Peggy Piggott thus being side-lined, although she was the first person to find any gold on the site, which is shown here, but we also see her being told that she has only been picked for the dig because as a woman she is of a lighter frame than the men, and so should cause less disturbance in case there is a cave-in. There is also some humour here as Mrs Pretty holds a sherry party so that those interested in the county can come and see the discovery, although as shown this is a bit of a nuisance.
This does make for a good read then, and it is interesting how the author brings to life certain elements, and how the different characters get on, or not, working together. If you want to know all the facts though you will have to turn to a non-fiction book with accounts of all that did actually go on, and what was discovered in detail.