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.

A beautifully evocative tale of two men whose lives are brought together in tragedy – for lovers of books by Kevin Powers and Sebastian Barry.

MEDIA

AWARDS

REVIEWS AND RESPONSES

‘A remarkable story of discovery and fidelity – setting, description, action at break-neck speed, and a bitter-sweet ending. Alexandria, its laneways, gardens and souks, and private, enclosed homes, is drawn with such clarity that the city becomes a character in its own right’ – Michael McKernan, Canberra Times

BODIES OF MEN is a timeless novel of love between men in wartime. While its elegant structure turns on revelations of truth and cleverly employs the tropes of traditional romance, every corner of this story is stained by a brutal and typically Australian masculinity. Details of military life are faithfully rendered, demonstrating the depth of Featherstone’s research: from the maddening desert storms, to the quirks that develop in the relationships among men; the endless training and boredom of army life, contrasted with the sudden drama of attack; and the soul-wrenching devastation that follows action. James and William themselves are such richly drawn characters, who endure well beyond these pages. BODIES OF MEN is, most wonderfully, a novel that says sweetness and strength in a man make for no contradiction but are two halves of a whole, and that shows each man, in his own way, is a ‘dangerous story’ – Kim Kelly, Newtown Review of Books

‘A beautifully written, tender and sensitive love story told within the tense and uncertain context of war’ – Karen Viggers, international best-selling author of The Lightkeeper’s Wife

BODIES OF MEN offers a thoroughly humanising depiction of Australians during World War II. In telling the story of two soldiers, William and his childhood friend James, Featherstone reflects upon the brutality, drudgery, and absurdity of war but also on the two men’s love and regard for each other. He weaves a compassionate tale but one that contains multiple layers of tension. It is also persistently surprising, as if the author has found a way to keep the ground beneath the characters – and readers – constantly shifting. Although William and James dominate the story, Featherstone draws upon a range of intriguing, deftly drawn characters; his characterisations of women are particularly rich and complex. Yetta is fascinating for her motivation, poise, and vulnerability, for the glimpses she offers James of her inner world and personal history, for the solace she takes in working and harvesting her tiny garden, for the force of her views. Featherstone’s depiction of war and wartime relies little on grand battles between armies or the machinations of Great Leaders. It is affecting and nuanced because he dwells on emotions and because the bubble of war in northern Africa remains connected in multiple ways – emotional as well as geopolitical – to the wider world. At times, the prose is reminiscent of Thomas Keneally’s keen and extended gaze, his swirling, exuberant dance with history. Featherstone also has a fine eye for small detail, whether it’s the dust and wind of the desert or the narrow streets of Alexandria, and for phrasing that disarms. The simplicity of the prose both anchors and elevates the story. This is also a novel about intimacy and devotion, the power of tenderness, the mysteries of time, presence, and absence, secrets revealed and withheld, and friendships between strangers emerging from dire circumstances’ – Patrick Allington, Australian Book Review

‘A sensitive and delicately woven love story. Featherstone has captured a rare moment in time’ – Janet Mawdesley, Bluewolf Reviews

‘A towering work that accomplishes so much in its 324 exquisitely well-judged pages, BODIES OF MEN is testament to the fact that beauty can emerge in the most extraordinary of places, that love finds expression in ways so multitudinous that we do it a disservice by corralling it within narrow confines, and that the greatest thing we can often do for ourselves is to ask “Why not?” and keep pushing forward until we get an answer’ – Sparkly Pretty Bright

‘BODIES OF MEN is a war novel that questions war. Courage and risk-taking, passion for a cause, recklessness, fear, commitment to helping others, tenderness and kindness – all of these come into play. And, as in all good novels, there are no simple answers. A love story this might be, but a genre romance or war-story it’s not. It’s a page-turner, underpinned by a fundamental understanding of humanity’ – Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

‘A beautiful story, so deftly constructed. And the characters. And the prose. BODIES OF MEN is a wonderful book’ – Sara Dowse, author of As the Lonely Fly

‘BODIES OF MEN is not a typical war story. There is a sensuousness in the writing that is felt in almost every scene. The evolving romance between the two men is tender and erotic, often at the same time, a great accomplishment by Featherstone, who writes such scenes with panache. The lightness and poetry of his prose makes for a scintillating, unforgettable read’ – Amanda Hickey, Verity La

‘Definitely a page-turner. The Australian soldiers are flawed figures. They have vices and commit crimes. They also have the full range of emotions and psychological responses to killing and seeing their mates wounded. They are vulnerable men, and this portrayal humanises them in such a way as to break away from the one-dimensional, glorious portrayal of Australian servicemen characteristic of Anzackery’ – Noah Riseman, Honest History

‘Spare, elegant, beautifully written’ – RIOTACT!

BODIES OF MEN is a profoundly moving piece of fiction from a perceptive writer’ – Mrs B’s Book Reviews

‘A strangely gentle novel about wartime conflict, violence and chaos. Featherstone explores the emotional currents running between friend and friend, child and parent, lover and lover. The novel is set in a time and place where everyone is vulnerable and anyone might be shot, betrayed, captured or abandoned, but love of all kinds endures’ – Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald

BODIES OF MEN is a novel set in wartime, but it is so much more than a war novel. The war, the threat of death, the horror of the need to kill, the demands and rigours of army structures are a dark presence, hovering always, demanding courage and discipline. But instead of accounts of battles and heroism, the war is shown up close, in the encounters of individual people: the personal cost of killing another human and the cost of not killing. Among all this, we are drawn into the gradual emergence of a relationship between two men, James and William, so different and yet so right together. Their relationship is painted with remarkable insight: tentative and vulnerable but also incredibly strong. It is a love that grows with its own kind of bravery and tenacity, and – what I particularly loved – a sense of adventure. It is beautiful, even thrilling, to watch the way the tenderness between them has a particular power that draws them back to one another time and again. It gives them a courage that the army, and society in general, cannot understand. And how much I admire Featherstone’s portrayal of the women; they are honest, wise and strong, surviving and caring, doing what needs to be done. Finally, I especially love the space the novel opens up. The short scenes, sometimes deceptively simply, evoke place and character, but they also create an openness that invites ideas and questions. It takes the reader seriously, asks us to honour the story with our own thoughts. The ending does that impossible thing: it is inevitable but unpredictable. I’m still thinking about what might come next for William and James’ – Robyn Cadwallader, author of The Anchoress and Book of Colours

‘This is not a typical Australian WWII novel recounting stories of heroic deeds and courageous resolve. For starters, the two main characters, James and William, are in love with each other, but even the secondary characters are fascinating’ – DNA Magazine

‘A beautiful, lyrical, elegiac book of love and war. A different take on men and conflict, and a war story like no other’ – Michael Brissenden, author of The List

BODIES OF MEN is an intriguing story that draws you in. Featherstone brings alive the city of Alexandria, the desert landscape, as well as the complexities of people from different nationalities and backgrounds, thrown together, escaping from the war in Europe, people with secrets. We empathise with the young men, in dread of secret organisations and the brutal Provost Corps, trying to find a way to be together. A beautifully written and tender love story’ – ReadPlus

‘A fresh and poignant story that builds on the tradition of military fiction and reinterprets it with a historical perspective that certainly existed but has rarely been told. Featherstone has a knack for finding the beauty in something that is rarely conceived of as beautiful or valuable outside its usefulness: the male body’ – Angharad Lodwick, Tinted Edges

‘Unafraid of emotion, though without a moment of wretched sentimentality, BODIES OF MEN magnificently conveys love, courage, endurance and comradeship straining against the cataclysmic backdrop of World War II. With unobtrusively elegant prose, Featherstone has crafted a vivid evocation of the arduous complexities of love between two men inured by the traumas of conflict. The result is something very special indeed: equal parts compelling, harrowing, and tender. With exquisite artistry, Featherstone writes about people trapped in a tragic situation struggling to reconcile their responsibilities and desires’ – Simon McDonald, Writtenbysime.com

‘A resonant and thematically rich experience. Featherstone has managed to find a corner of that war that has not been particularly well explored and wartime relationships between soldiers that have not often found their way into print. There is plenty that sets BODIES OF MEN apart from the traditions that it draws on’ – Robert Goodman, PS News

‘One of the most sweeping and cinematic yet intimate and finely etched novels I can remember. A war story, a love story, an evocation of a time passed from any living memory and a reminder not to let silences linger. I loved this book so much. Bravo’ – Gordon Peake, author of the award-winning Beloved Land

‘A beautifully written, tender love story’ – Readings

BODIES OF MEN is a captivating and moving love story that acutely measures the deep paradox of the masculine condition – acts of tenderness, cruelty, affection, and fury all cascade upon one another as the lives of these men pulsate through the mind of the reader. Featherstone brings it all together in refined, unpretentious prose – war writing without sentimentality or hyperbole. There are even some ethereal notes of Michael Ondaatje in this. It’s that good – The Booktopian

‘Love in all its forms – desire, pleasure, care, respect, companionship, commitment – and refuge of all shades, from the simplest show of honour or friendship to the life-changing risks of offering, or accepting, refuge and safe harbour. I became thoroughly invested in the main characters, and by the end – a nail-biting and tense conclusion – I cared very deeply about what happened to them. This is a story of vulnerability and sacrifice, of persistence, of life-long yearning. It is a story about the many ways of becoming whole’ – Cass Moriarty, author of The Promise Seed and Parting Words

‘A beautiful, tender, captivating story’ – Joanna Nell, author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

‘Only a few pages into BODIES OF MEN I felt like the outside world was slowly beginning to fall away. There is something about Featherstone’s writing – his style, his voice, the way he structures and crafts his sentences with so much care and love – that gives an overall atmosphere of quiet and calmness that seeps beyond the pages. Featherstone’s unassuming and gentle style perfectly corresponds to the story crafted and narrated in this novel. It is a beautiful and moving love story between two men – one confident in his sexual identity, while the other struggles with it for the large part of the novel – set amidst World War II in Egypt. I read the last 20 pages of the novel extremely slowly: on the one hand, I wanted to know the end, although I felt where it was leading to, but on the other hand I just did not want this book to be over’ – Khulud Khamis, author of Haifa Fragments

PURCHASE

BODIES OF MEN is available throughout Australia and New Zealand in all good bookstores. The novel can also be purchased through Hachette Australia direct – trade paperback, ebook, and audio book.

IN CASE YOU’RE WONDERING

During World War Two, for the Second Australian Imperial Force, the lowest ranking officer was designated ‘lieutenant’, which would have been William Marsh’s rank in the opening stages of BODIES OF MEN, not ‘corporal’. This clarification is being made to future editions of the novel.

PUBLICITY ENQUIRIES

Please contact Tessa Connelly, Senior Publicist at Hachette Australia, on tessa.connelly@hachette.com.au