The Dig

Publication Date: Apr 19, 2016

272 pp


List Price US $14.99
ISBN: 9781590517819

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25

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.

Excerpt from The Dig

I knew I was going to have to give up soon. But I couldn’t bear to stop. Not yet. I kept on brushing. More than anything else I wished I’d brought a torch and I cursed myself for not thinking of it before. Just when I had decided that there was no point carrying on, I came across something else. A piece of timber . . . When I tapped the wood with my finger, it gave out a soft, hollow sound. In the top left-hand corner, I could make out what I thought was a knot. Peering at it more closely, I saw it was a small hole. A dry, papery smell rose from the ground. It caught in my nostrils as I sat staring at the piece of wood, and at the hole in particular.

Then I did something shameful. Something I can never excuse, or properly explain. I pushed my finger through the hole. It went in quite easily—the timber fitted snugly round my knuckle. Beyond was a cavity. Although I couldn’t be sure, I felt the cavity to be a large one. There was a kind of emptiness around my finger, like an absence of air. I stayed where I was for several minutes. By now I could hardly see the wood in front of me, it was so dark. But still I sat there, not moving. And when at last I took my finger away, all the excitement I’d felt before vanished in an instant. In its place came a great wash of sadness. So strong it quite knocked me back.

After I’d covered over the center of the ship with tarpaulins and secured the corners with stones, I set off for Sutton Hoo House. The gravel path ran pale and straight in front of me. On one side was a yew tree. I could see its silhouette looming up before me, its branches almost touching the ground. The sky was black as hogs. When I rang the back doorbell, I could feel the sweat, cold and drying, on my skin. Grateley answered the door. Although he’d taken off his collar, he still had his tailcoat on.

“Basil? What are you doing here?”

“Would you tell Mrs. Pretty I need to see her?”

“As Downton Abbey sinks into the sunset, bereft Abbots might find some consolation here, and, added depth, naturally.” —Library Journal

“Shimmers with longing and regret…Preston writes with economical grace…He has written a kind of universal chamber piece, small in detail, beautifully made and liable to linger on  in the heart and the mind. It is something utterly unfamiliar, and quite wonderful.” The New York Times Book Review

“Beautifully understated…A timeless tale of ancient English treasure.” —Seattle Times

“As homey at times as chamomile tea but spiked with pointed undercurrents, this is a real treat for a reader who can appreciate its quiet pleasures.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A moving tale of mortality and the passage of time . . . affecting . . . Preston is subtle but precise in his characterizations, and meticulous with period detail.” —Publishers Weekly

“A very fine, engrossing, and exquisitely original novel.” —Ian McEwan, author of Atonement

“Wistful and poignant. A masterpiece in Chekhovian understatement.” —Times Literary Supplement

“The Dig offers both a vividly reimagined slice of history and a tantalizing rumination on what remains after we cease to exist” —Booklist

“Intensely human . . . [The Dig] constantly reminds us, rediscovering the past is a deeply equivocal pursuit . . .  Preston keeps an iron grip on the reader’s attention . . .  a wonderful, evocative book. From his simple tale of dirt, Preston has produced the finest gold.” The Guardian

“An enthralling story of love and loss, a real literary treasure. One of the most original novels of the year.” —Robert Harris, author of An Officer and a Spy

“A rich vein of dry humor runs throughout.” —Evening Standard

“Intriguing, tender and entertaining . . . easily Preston’s best.” —The Independent
“A delicate, quietly affecting human drama.” —Daily Mail

“A moving novel that coheres wonderfully as it progresses.” —Spectator

“A delicate evocation of a vanished era.” —Sunday Times

“Beautifully written . . . there is a true and wonderful ending to the story.” —Bill Wyman, Mail on Sunday

“Exciting, evocative and beautifully written . . . A treasure in itself.” —Griff Rhys Jones, author of To the Baltic with Bob: An Epic Misadventure

“So absorbing that I read right through lunchtime one day, and it’s not often I miss a meal.” —Nigella Lawson, author of Simply Nigella