FICTION

The Dig

Other. Apr. 2016. 272p. ISBN 9781590517802. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590517819. F
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Reading this fourth novel by the arts editor of the Sunday Telegraph means you'll never again need to ask, "Sutton who?" This is a lively and informative fictionalized account of the 1939 excavation that unearthed the Anglo-Saxon royal treasure hoard, known as Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, England. Told by multiple narrators, the story unfolds gradually, revealing its essence, much like, well, a dig. The stately home, Sutton Hoo, on whose grounds the treasure is found, is overseen by an older widow with a young son, whose scampering about lends a bit of lightheartedness to the proceedings. There's also an efficient butler tidying up the place. The excavation is initially undertaken by an amateur archaeologist living in the area. This being prewar Britain, however, once the importance of the cache is recognized, class and power rear their influential heads, and the locals get elbowed aside by the big boys from Cambridge and the British Museum. The site itself, its multicolored sands and clays and levels, is one of the major characters.
VERDICT With its sense of a magical land, awareness of class concerns, and unrelenting understatement and reticence, this tale is as English as a picnic by the side of the road in a light drizzle. As Downton Abbey sinks into the sunset, bereft Abbots might find some consolation here, and, added depth, naturally.
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