The header on the back cover of Bodies of Men from acclaimed Australian Author Nigel Featherstone states, ‘There is nothing more important than love and revenge’, or is there, is the question that is posed through this sensitive and delicately woven love story.
Set in Egypt during the 1941 occupation of the country by Allied Forces, many the young men of the Australian Armed Forces, waiting out their time to see action in a War far from their homeland. William Marsh a newly fledge Corporal, lands in Alexandria and within hours finds himself in a skirmish with Italian troops.
James Kelly, a childhood friend comes to his aid, saving his life, but before William can work out it really was James, he had gone again. It is not until William is given orders to establish a dessert training camp, and clandestinely keep an eye out for a possible deserter, one James Kelly, he realises that what he only through was a possibility, was true.
On leave in Alexandria, William discovers a group of ‘Tommies’ harassing a young boy who is protecting a girl from their abuse. He and the girl want him to follow them to a small house, where the girl asks him to take away the soldier with the bad legs. The soldier turns out to be James, with badly broken legs, caused by a fall from the army motorbike he had been riding far too fast, across the desert sands.
But there are secrets held within the caring family who have rescued and healed James, that must not be disturbed, secrets that only increase when William and James realise that what they had as a young boys is something more than just a lovely friendship, it is a love that is deep, binding and very, very dangerous.
As the story unfolds the nefarious and darkly controlling nature of Williams father, the respect his mother has always been held in by family friend and his commanding officer Bradley-Allen, as well as the unconditional love James Kelly’s mother holds him in, are woven with great delicacy throughout the chapters, as is the deep concern and love shown by Yetta and Ernst as they nurse James back to health.
Nigel Featherston has captured a rare moment in time, one that could and most probably often did occur in the stark, tragic and emotional days of War; a time when society rules often took precedence over humanity and a time that could never ever be spoken off, for fear of the horrific ramifications that would surely follow.
Bodies of Men has a deeply interesting conclusion which, while tying up some loose ends, also leaves room for the imagination to create the next step in what is still an unfinished manuscript of life.