Last weekend, I went to a book launch in Cambridge for Cliff James’ debut novel ‘Of Bodies Changed’. The novel tells the story of Jackie, who travels to the South Downs in search of her childhood home. As she tries to find out what happened to her estranged brother, Chris, she uncovers a number of dark family secrets. Based on what Cliff describes as a “close encounter” with the Church as a teenager, the story follows Jackie as she is introduced to a world of heathens, priests and paganism.
After I sampled some of the excellent Turkish food at the Box Cafe (I highly recommend the selection of meze), Cliff gave two readings from the beginning and the middle of the story and answered a few questions about the book. Interestingly, the gender of the narrator isn’t immediately obvious until half way through the first chapter and many readers have told him they were surprised that he chose to have a female narrator. However, he said that he hadn’t found it difficult to write the story from a female perspective. The title was inspired by Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ and the myths which are featured in the story all refer to this work. Although I wouldn’t say you necessarily need to be familiar with the context of Ovid’s work to appreciate ‘Of Bodies Changed’, perhaps this knowledge would uncover further layers.
‘Of Bodies Changed’ has been published via FeedARead.com which is a self-publishing platform supported by funding from Arts Council England and the National Lottery. FeedARead allows talented new authors to develop further and its top selling authors can receive feedback from leading publishers. It operates very differently from Amazon: Cliff gave the example of the eBook ‘Baboon Fart Story’ – an experimental self-published “novel” which contains the word “fart” 100,000 times and was famously removed from sale by Amazon who cited reports of “poor customer experience”. Compared with Amazon, FeedARead seems to invest a lot more in quality control and budding authors seeking an alternative to the online retail giant for self-publishing their work should take a look at the website.
‘Of Bodies Changed’ is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve read in a long time. The characters are convincing, the book is well written and the descriptive prose contains some beautiful imagery. Although not the type of story I would normally read, anyone interested in dark, gothic tales would certainly enjoy it and you can find out more about ‘Of Bodies Changed’ here.