I read the first scene of The Dig by Cynan Jones in a workshop on the Arvon course I did in August. The exercise was to look at how the author sets up the story, word choice, rhythm, mood, that sort of thing. I was intrigued by the subject matter and attracted by the visceral writing.
It’s about hunting, about man’s domination over nature, the cruelty of blood sports, the physicality of farming life, and mostly about the overwhelming nature of grief. Which is a great deal to explore in a very short book.
It’s not a pleasant read. I can’t say I enjoyed it. It is very physical and I liked how that could be conveyed. Reading and writing are quite intellectual pursuits and the skill to be able to create an embodied sense of connection to the land is considerable. It was compelling.
In some ways it’s an unsatisfying read. The ending didn’t resolve the story and, actually, I’m not quite sure what happened. The Dig stops rather than ends but on reflection perhaps that right for this particular story. I found myself wanting to know why. That question is never answered. I suppose it’s not the author’s intention to give meaning or understanding. It’s a book about sensation and elemental forces and being caught in the tide of your circumstances. If you enjoy being unsettled by what you read, then this one’s for you.