Reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo helmet. Photograph by Gernot Keller
I absolutely loved The Dig. It's a completely charming book, very much in the style of two other favourites of mine - A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr and Isabel Colegate's The Shooting Party.
John Preston has woven a fascinating partly-fictionalised account of the dig at Sutton Hoo in the last few months leading up to the Second World War. In many ways it's a reversal of the events portrayed in A month in the country. In a fascinating article I discovered that Preston's own aunt was involved with the Sutton Hoo dig - see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3664803/My-buried-history.html. She becomes one of the central characters of the novelisation. It's a gentle moving read, in spite of the competing archaeologists at the centre of the story. Perhaps that's because in spite of the gathering clouds of war the Sutton Hoo dig was such an important event in itself. How stunning that at such a pivotal point in history King Raedwald, a figure from the distant past, with his wonderful ship burial, could suddenly make himself known again.