1944. After the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, a German counterattack lands on British soil. Within a month, half of Britain is occupied. The seat of British government has fled to Worcester, Churchill to Canada. A network of British resistance cells is all that is left to defy the German army.
Against this backdrop, Resistance opens with Sarah Lewis, a twenty-six-year-old farmer's wife, waking to find her husband, Tom, has disappeared. She is not alone, as all the other women in the Welsh border valley of Olchon wake to find their husbands gone. With this sudden and unexplained absence, the women regroup as an isolated, all-female community and wait, hoping for news.
Later, a German patrol arrives in the valley, the purpose of their mission a mystery. When a severe winter forces the two groups together, a fragile mutual dependency develops. Sarah begins a faltering acquaintance with the patrols commanding officer, Albrecht Wolfram, and it is to her that he reveals the purpose of the patrol. But as the pressure of the war beyond presses in on this isolated community, this fragile state of harmony is increasingly threatened.
Imbued with immense imaginative breadth and confidence, Owen Sheers's debut novel unfolds with the pace and intensity of a thriller. A hymn to the glorious landscape of the Welsh border territories and a portrait of a community under siege, Resistance is a first novel of grace and power.
SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 1944
Would have been different. For it would have been
Edward Thomas, "As the Team's Head-Brass"
In the months afterwards all of the women, at some point, said they'd known the
men were leaving the valley. Just as William Jones used to forecast the weather
by studying the sky or the formations of migrating birds, so the women said
they'd been able to forecast the men's sudden departure. After all, they were
their men, their husbands. No one could read them like they could. So no
surprise if they should see what was coming. That's what the women said in the
long silence afterwards.
But in truth none of them saw any change in the men's behaviour. None of them knew the men were leaving and in many ways this was the hardest part of what happened. Their husbands left in the night. Just days after news of the invasion came crackling through on Maggie's wireless, propped on a Bible on her kitchen ...
Powered by a giant "what if?" Resistance is an unexpectedly suspenseful meditation on the ways the schisms of war can break down when reduced to the human element, isolated from the larger machine. With finely detailed prose and compassionate narration, Owen Sheers shapes an unusual war novel, almost completely removed from violence and political struggles, yet no less terrifying.
At times, Resistance seems like it was once a much longer novel. A few tangents feel irrelevant and out of place ... Otherwise, Sheers's writing is seamless, moving the action with poetic prose and the pacing of a quiet thriller. (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
Full Review (852 words).
The British Resistance
During WWII, Winston Churchill initiated the British Resistance Organization, or Auxiliary Units, as preparation for the expected invasion of the British Isles by Nazi Germany. In Owen Sheers's alternative history, the Nazis succeed, and the insurgents mobilize at once. A highly secretive organization, the resistance primarily employed farmers and countrymen with an intimate knowledge of their locality who would be able to live off the land, isolated from a larger military force, staying behind to fight after occupation. While many were drawn from the Home Guard (local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, usually due to age) and operated under their guise, others were sworn to ...
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