Published by Other Press on April 5th 2016
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.
In 1939 Edith Perry contacted the Ipswich Museum about some mounds she wanted excavated on her property in East Anglia. The museum recommended an amateur archeologist, Basil Brown. Mr Brown went on to uncover one of the most significant sites of medieval history in England. What ensured was a battle between Museums and property owns for the priceless objects found.
John Preston has offered us a fictionalized account of this dig. Using four different narrator’s, Preston covers the period of April through September 1939. The use of these narrator’s was very successful in accounting what happened, which I believe Preston wanted to do without bogging down the story with a lot of character detail. This does leave the story a little unsettled. I for one, am grateful to have the book since it does give us a sense of history.