Hachette Australia 2019
In moving into historical fiction, Nigel Featherstone has created a moving and sensitive work which, whilst set against a backdrop of war in Egypt in 1941, focusses most strongly on the nature and possibilities of love.
William Marsh and James Kelly, childhood friends, meet again unexpectedly minutes after disembarking in Egypt as soldiers. A stoush with the Italian army forces quick action and William is found wanting. Not long after this William is posted to the desert to supervise a stores depot and to train a group of raw soldiers. James goes AWOL. We follow their separate and entwining stories and those of a rich collection of supporting characters.
Notably, Yetta and Ernst, fugitives themselves of a different kind, take James in after a motor bike accident and they take care of him in a long and delicate healing process. At the same time, James learns much about the many guises of love and recalls the childhood lessons of his mother on being always and unchangingly himself. William, on the other hand, wrestles with himself and his family’s secrets for much of the story but finally comes to understand all of this too.
Family secrets, concepts of social responsibility, personal ethics and memory underpin this fine story. Nigel Featherstone writes so engagingly and paints his leading characters so sympathetically that we care immediately for his people of the book and happily get under their skin, omnisciently willing them to survive and overcome.