Arthur Birkby,
Dig Up My Gold, But
I Won't Say Where It's Buried

(Tate, 2006)

Arthur Birkby sets out to tell the story of his life through his early years in Dig Up My Gold, But I Won't Say Where It's Buried. And he does so through a series of vignettes and moments with the early chapters focusing on his relatives and then shifting to tell his story.

One of the main strengths of the book is his voice and how he describes the incidents of his life. He is a raconteur and it does show as the flow of the narrative carries you through the book. The first few chapters are uneven and the transition from brief sketch to brief sketch doesn't allow his voice to carry the story. But the book does find its footing and becomes more fluid as it progresses.

As he introduces you to his relatives, you meet some very interesting characters and you very quickly run into the story that gave the book its title. They show up in the early chapters and all but completely disappear from the book as he moves on to his life through World War II. Most of the book focuses on those years and it ends with him looking to the future about to start a new chapter in his life.

Dig Up My Gold is about the narrative, the flow of words that pulls you along. It is a story told now, of what his life was like then and at places it is very aware of how attitudes have changed.

by Paul de Bruijn
3 March 2007

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