Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Dig” as Want to Read:
The Dig
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Dig

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  915 ratings  ·  182 reviews
This is a searing short novel, built of the interlocking fates of a badger-baiter and a disconsolate farmer, unfolding in a stark rural setting where man, animal, land and weather are at loggerheads. Their two paths converge with tragic inevitability. Jones writes of the physiology of grief and the isolation of loss with brilliance, and about the simple rawness of animal e ...more
Hardcover, 159 pages
Published January 2nd 2014 by Granta Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Dig, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Dig

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  915 ratings  ·  182 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
A stark, uncompromising and poetic novella which documents the hard lives of two solitary men in Welsh sheep country.

Daniel is a sheep farmer, coping alone with lambing after his wife has been killed in an accident. His story is interwoven with that of "the big man", who operates beyond the law as a badger baiter. Both of these stories are told in simple and unsentimental language that retains a beauty and a poetic precision. The two men's paths eventually collide in a brutal conclusion the pre
Doug H - On Hiatus
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A modern classic. Pared to the essentials. Dark and poetic. If I were teaching a course in literature, I would include this novel in my syllabus. It's all here: symbolism, foreshadowing, mythological archetypes, allegory. It's a brutal and depressing tale (more so than anything I've read in recent memory), but it is deepened and lifted beyond mere horror by the author's firm control and underlying sensitivity and the karmic retribution in the epilogue delivers the final stroke. Genius.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haunting story about farming in Wales. It's not hard imagining the scenery. It's about life and death and survival.
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
wonderful. A Welsh Cormac McCarthy.

Jones has a firm but poetic grip on his narrative, which follows the (mis)fortunes of a grieving farmer and a badger-baiter in an isolated part of Wales. Life and death are unsentimentally portrayed, grass, sheep, dogs, rats, humans all treated the same really; although it is impossible not to empathise with Daniel, the farmer as he struggles to keep up with his chores and thinks of his wife. Even the brutal badger baiter evinces sympathy (from me anyway) in t
Kirk Smith
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dougs-top-picks
This is such a strange story and with such startling contrasts. Love loss and tenderness, Pursuit abuse and savagery. Fragile births and horrible endings. A true pastoral (shepherding is a third of the story) delivered in sparse elegiac prose. So beautifully abbreviated it becomes more by its simplicity and surely harbors deeper meanings. What does it say when the instinctual savagery at our core must be abandoned in order to evolve? Will we be more or will we be less prepared for our future? I ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was totally entranced by this book. Brutal, haunting, beautiful.
Moira Macfarlane
It's a tender and brutal story, harsh. Cynan Jones writes the most intense short novels and has a naturalistic writing style, never romanticising life, but there is passion in the way he describes the landscape with it's colours, textures and scents. I slow my pace, feel spellbound, his writing resonates. 
I've read Cove too and am pretty sure I want to read his other books as well.

"The scent of her was in the room and it almost choked him to understand how vital to him this was; how he could ne
Robert Williams
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, very bleak but strangely poetic. Horrible scenes of badger baiting juxtaposed with the grief and loneliness of a welsh sheep farmer. A compelling story by a Welsh writer and I will look out for his others.
Poetically brutal. This is such a masculine landscape where the lines between animal and people blur, where pain and grief simply get ground into the pulp that is daily survival. One man attempts to nurture animal life while dealing with human death. The other seems to foster animal death, which seems like such a savage way of life. Rich. Visceral. At times, throat-closing. Jones weaves a fascinatingly touching story while simultaneously repelling the reader with scenes of such stark violence. D ...more
Justin Griffiths-Bell
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful book by a class writer with a pitch-perfect ear for the sound of the language.

Revolving around twin narratives, it is a study of loss and isolation, focusing on two characters, each a counterpoint to the other; one, a farmer, a brooding thinker, lost and cut adrift, becoming dimly aware of the world shutting off before him; the other, a rat-catcher and badger baiter, a perennial stranger, brooding still more darkly, disconnected. Each suffers apart in a way that’s entirely di
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Visceral. Violent. Compelling. Those are the first three words that spring to mind when I think of Cynan Jones’ The Dig, a muscular little novel that is so powerful as to be Herculean.

Set in a Welsh farming community, it could be described as a “rural novel”, but it’s not the bucolic countryside so often depicted in literature. This is nature red in tooth and claw. It feels earthy, rough, rugged — and realistic. Anyone who’s grown up on a farm or in a farming community will recognise the life an
Jun 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2014
I should say up front that this is not a book I would have ever chosen to read - I had to do so for my book group - and as in the book group, so it is here, in that I am very much in the minority in my reaction to it.

I did think it was a very effective and moving portrait of loss and isolation, and that is a genuine achievement. However, the violence and animal cruelty described in the scenes with the Big Man were so unpleasant and, to my mind at least, so completely unnecessary that they totall
Kris McCracken
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, if immensely troubling, short novel that explores the interior lives of two very different men. One, a grieving farmer struggling for the survival of his farm in lambing season, and the other an unnamed badger baiter, who exists seemingly to torture animals for the entertainment of others.

The two lonely men live close to each other in remote Wales, and it is clear from the bleak and foreboding beginning of the book that their lives are set on a collision course that cannot possibly
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cynan Jones can do no wrong. Seriously, no-one can write like him - and nobody can write about Wales and the countryside (and the people who live there) like he can.

The Dig focuses on two different men - a (view spoiler) farmer and a badger-baiter. The farmer realises the badger-baiter is on his land, and things go from there. The novel is pretty short so that to reveal much else would get into spoiler territory.

Don't misunderstand when I say that Jones writes about the
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With the badger culls still in the news this feels topical, however it isn't that which makes this such a dramatic and moving book. This is rural Wales with all the romance sucked out of it, leaving only the dirt, blood and harsh reality. The story maybe short but that doesn't prevent it having an impact as the reader is drawn into the lives of Daniel, the grieving sheep farmer, and Ag the badger baiter. I defy anyone with an ounce of empathy to read this book without being moved by the depictio ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is both heartbreaking and enraging. Daniel, the farmer who's young wife recently died from being kicked in the head by a horse, is using the mind numbing work of the farm during lambing season to keep himself going as he struggles with despair. Big Man hunts badgers that he captures alive and takes to be used for sport by men who seem to be aroused by violence.
In the "sport" a badger is placed in a pit and attacked by dogs. The author's way of describing what was occurring in the stor
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british, welsh
Brutal, visceral, utterly devoid of sentimentality, this intertwining tale of a badger baiter and a recently widowed farmer is a bleak and unsparing look at contemporary rural existence. Life and death are neatly juxtaposed as the two narratives both echo and contrast each other. Even in its bloodiest moments this short novel is nonetheless marked by a deep feeling for nature and the countryside, and is infused with a poetry ("long-decayed bouquets"; "the rush of thrushes") that gives it an almo ...more
Craig Wallwork
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
More like prose poetry, it took me a few pages to find the rhythm, but once in the flow of it you feel like you’re floating along a stream, slowly sinking into the cold waters, bitterly cold waters, and to gasp or struggle would only make it worse, so you just go with it, you sink, and under the waters you find Daniel, a man drenched in misery and guilt. And there he tells you his story, and no matter how much you try and catch your breath, you can’t, because you’re weighted down too, anchored b ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
“He believed by this point that the badger deserved it.”

This is a gut-punch of a read, but massively inspiring to the writer in me. Cynan Jones’ prose is stunning—filled with passages of uncomfortable but simple and meticulous truth. The story is rich and thought-provoking, and explores our relationships with our past, our surroundings, our loved-ones, and the animals we share this life with. Disturbing, but so worth it.
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic, bought-2014
A brutal, visceral and excruciating read, but deeply beautiful and moving. Daniel is a Welsh sheep farmer who has lost his wife; another nameless man is digging for badgers in his woods, baiting them with dogs for the entertainment of other cruel men. Their worlds converge, symbolically and actually, with violence and grief. Highly recommended, and easy to read in a single sitting.
Warning for graphic descriptions of animal cruelty. I did think Daniel's chapters were effective in describing (slight spoiler) (view spoiler). With a greater focus on Daniel's story I may have ended up liking the whole novel a lot more. Unfortunately, the "Big Man's" chapters were so deeply unpleasant and took up such a huge amount of pages for such a short book that I really can't see past it. There were other graphic scenes in Daniel's sections as well, but ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A book about a recently widowed sheep farmer and a man who has a shady (to say the least) way of living. Eventually their destinies cross with startling results.

Yes this is a cliched summary but really if I do go into more detail I'll spoil everything. While reading this brief novel, a lot of comparisons came into my head. There's the cruel aspect one finds in Evie Wyld's All the Bird's Singing, some of J.M Coetzee's Disgrace and even the Roald Dahl and some of Magnus Mills. Really though The D
Fred Fisher
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best reads I've had in a while. The book is laid out differently from what I am used to. The paragraphs are all separated by a few spaces. It looks a little odd, but I quickly got used to it. I'm not sure if it is to make a short work longer or if it is some other stylistic convention for post modern writing.

Anyway, to the book itself. The author is Welsh and has the gift of language that the Welsh are known for. In my opinion, they are the best writers, story tellers and com
Samuel Bigglesworth
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another writer from my writing group recommended this.

I didn't know what to expect, but it was really good. The writing is excellent, all details carefully picked, not a word wasted.

There is a golden thread of truth about the nature of life running through it, which I believe is important for all books!

There are some similarities to Cormac McCarthy and Hemingway in the writing style.

It felt like the writer has lived and breathed the rural Welsh communities and characters he was writing about.
Jonathan Maas
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A powerful book, with a powerful representation of farming life

This book punches you in the midsection. Are there twists? Not really. Is there a punchy plot? Somewhat. Are there characters that represents the extremes of good and evil? Not at all.

And yet - it holds the power of a horror book, or an intense thriller. Why? The writing hits you like a punch in the midsection. Bare bones farming in the cold, and you can feel the British wind stripping your face of warmth.

It's not long, it doesn't ha
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Cynan Jones has a knack for bulldozering away layers of civilisational sediment to transport us back to some sort of primeval origin, a zero point where our human predicament is reduced to its barest essentials. The Dig pits two archetypes against one another: a farmer and a hunter. Both have a fateful relationship to the land. The land lends them their profoundest sense of identity but it is also the source of their undoing. Jones paints the collision of worldviews in a spare and dark palette o ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a little perplexed at how to write a review for this book. I enjoyed the unique storyline. The writing style takes the reader in directions very unknown to most. The ending was abrupt and left me wanting more but I enjoyed the path this book took me on.
Priya Sharma
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunningly written meditation on violence and loss. Each sentence is carefully balanced and considered. There's real beauty in Cyan Jones' work, which has drawn comparison to Cormac McCarthy and Hemmingway.

I found this much more accessible than "Cove".
It's the kind of book that makes you think.
Big picture thinking about cruelty and vulnerability and will we ever learn.
Is cruelty innate?
Intimate portrait thinking about love and grief and does it make a difference.
Is attachment useful?
I abhor violence against any being that can not protect itself.
Which is all beings...
Proceed with caution into this spare, brutal, beautiful read.
I cried all afternoon while missing my dad (who grew up on a poor farm amid similar characters and did not become wha
LAPL Reads
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great books can create worlds in which the strange seems familiar, and the routine feels like new. When this is done well, as in Cynan Jones’ The Dig, we aren’t merely shocked or unsettled, we are inspired to view our own lives and relationships from other angles, to reconsider our triumphs and failures against a standard we may have never before imagined. Jones weaves together the stories of two rural Welshmen laboring during lambing season to evoke grief, hope, ambition, and revulsion in a way ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Dig 1 1 Aug 28, 2019 02:34AM  
21st Century Lite...: The Dig - Whole book (Spoilers allowed) (July 2017) 43 46 Jul 31, 2017 01:16PM  
21st Century Lite...: The Dig - General Discussion (No spoilers) (July 2017) 21 42 Jul 13, 2017 07:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lucinella
  • Their Lips Talk of Mischief
  • Border Country
  • The Field of the Cloth of Gold
  • Memoirs of a Fighting Dog
  • The Bend of the World
  • Haweswater
  • Land of Love and Ruins
  • If You're Not Yet Like Me
  • In The River
  • Out Backward
  • Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter
  • Turning Blue
  • Worse Than Myself
  • How to Get into the Twin Palms
  • Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills
  • The Death of Danny Daggers
  • He Wants
See similar books…
Cynan Jones lives and works near Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales.

His first novel, 'The Long Dry', won a 2007 Betty Trask Award and led to his nomination as the Hay Festival Scritture Giovani Fellow in 2008.

His second novel 'Everything I Found on the Beach' was published by Parthian in 2011.

Both books were re-released by Granta in Summer 2014, in partnership with Parthian,.

His work has been t
“As he looked out in the pitch dark beyond, a barn owl came into the floodlight, glid silently between the barns and was gone, seeming to leave some ghost of itself, some measureless whiteness in the air.” 2 likes
“A singular moth flutters in through the wind baffles to the naked bulb above the kettle, cuspid, a drifting piece of loose ash on the white filament, paper burnt up, caught in the rising current from some fire unseen, unfelt.” 1 likes
More quotes…