Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Dig by Cynan Jones


Timothy Thomas 5 March 2014 at 19:19  

Thanks for this review: you captured many things I felt after reading this book, not least of all visceral involvement!

Jones uses the short form to perfection in The Dig, exercising total control over his fiction. That kind of virtuosity is breathtaking and really engaging.

In a story that seems at times so fatalistic, certainly through dealing with people in what might be called trapped lives, language is important. Jones's use of modal verbs (could, shall, must) to indicate likelihood and even obligation is arresting. I was reminded in many moments of Gerard Manley Hopkins; Jones as a novelist sometimes writes like a poet, and is indebted to sprung rhythm and Old English.

The characters in the novel seem present in a double way. They are living individuals in this moment, but also evoke types that have probably existed for as long as memory has existed. I should note that I include the countryside itself - the land - as a living character.

It is ingenious how in a novel that seems so overwhelmingly masculine that elements of the feminine are subtly (but strongly) present. The combination of beauty and violence, sensitivity and pain, is something that really makes Jones's fiction seem alive and makes the reader more alive, too.

I have not gone into the aspects of the book that deal with the crisis of the countryside, and all that seems to disquiet it, threaten it, and violate its nature and disrupt its cycles.

This book hasn't been published in the USA yet, but I immediately ordered a copy from the UK after hearing a bit of a Guardian podcast that mentioned it. I started and finished the book in one sitting, finding myself sitting bolt upright in the silence of a cold winter night for a long time afterward. I am not disappointed.

William Rycroft 6 March 2014 at 07:57  

Thanks for such a detailed comment Timothy, it's fantastic to read such an engaged response, especially from someone who has gone out of their way to get hold of the book in the first place!

I think the fact that you read it in one sitting is not just testament to the book's power but part of the reason you've got so much from it. I seldom get the chance to sit and read a whole book in one go, but I always find it so rewarding when I do.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and I'm so pleased you loved this book as much as I did.

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