Title: Bodies of Men
Author: Nigel Feathertsone
Published: April 23rd 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
There is nothing more important than love and refuge.
Egypt, 1941. Only hours after disembarking in Alexandria, William Marsh, an Australian corporal at twenty-one, is face down in the sand, caught in a stoush with the Italian enemy. He is saved by James Kelly, a childhood friend from Sydney and the last person he expected to see. But where William escapes unharmed, not all are so fortunate.
William is sent to supervise an army depot in the Western Desert, with a private directive to find an AWOL soldier: James Kelly. When the two are reunited, James is recovering from an accident, hidden away in the home of an unusual family – a family with secrets. Together they will risk it all to find answers.
Soon William and James are thrust headlong into territory more dangerous than either could have imagined.
Published widely throughout Australia, Nigel Featherstone is best known for his story collection piece Joy, his debut novel and popular novellas. Holding tenures at the well known writing residences of Varuna and Bundanon, has put Nigel Featherstone in excellent standing to produce his latest work of literary fiction, Bodies of Men. A book of both tragedy and self reflection, Bodies of Men charts the evolving relationship between two men, both soldiers in the Second World War.
Bodies of Men opens in the year 1941 in Egypt when a defining event takes place. This event will forever shape the lives of the two lead protagonists of the tale, William Marsh and James Kelly. Bodies of Men is a story of great danger and personal liability as two men assess their true feelings and search for restitution.
What immediately struck me about Bodies of Men was the desolate cover. The ruined buildings, products of the spoils of war and the stark landscape really impacted me. From my first impression of Bodies of Men I surmised that this novel was going to be about broken lives and the ravages of war. Although my finger wasn’t quite on the pulse with this prediction, Bodies of Men is a tragic story that unfolds under the backdrop of war, restrictions, oppression and survival.
Bodies of Men is a well composed story. Featherstone’s prose impressed me. It is light, but at the same time deeply emotive, conveying a great deal within a sparse format. The words spoken in this novel are deeply affective and they seem to infiltrate into your soul, so that you cannot help but be moved by the stories of the two soldiers present in this tale. Likewise, I found the dialogue to be authentic and rooted within the context of the time period in which these characters are situated. There is a bleak but powerful reality that underpins the entire novel, which I appreciated very much.
Bodies of Men is much more than a standard war experience story. War is an overriding theme, but it is offset by the power of childhood bonds, relationships, family, friendships, responsibilities, societal expectations, class distinctions, trauma, duty, morality, acceptance and love. I believe Nigel Featherstone has achieved a great deal in the process of penning a book such as Bodies of Men. This novel works to break down a number of barriers, with a particular focus on the restrictions faced by soldiers such as the two men featured in this novel. Months of military research conducted by the author, which has been fully injected into this novel, adds weight to these experiences.
Bodies of Men is rich in tone and reflective, revealing the fragile nature of relationships within the shadows of war. Bodies of Men is a profoundly moving piece of fiction from a perceptive writer.
Bodies of Men by Nigel Featherstone is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $32.99
To learn more about the author of Bodies of Men, Nigel Featherstone, visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.