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.
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).
Entertainment Weekly - Jeff Labrecque
Sheers must know some steely women, because his languid first act soon gains traction when he artfully explores the secrets of Sarah's indomitable heart amidst the arbitrary and inevitable cruelty of love and war. B+
Starred Review. Sheers's alternate reality is frighteningly convincing and dripping with heartbreak. This is an outstanding debut.
Library Journal - Douglas Southard
Like Roth, Sheers uses the genre to explore broader themes, particularly focusing on the different ways in which characters on both sides of the conflict alternately resist and accommodate themselves to war and occupation. Sheers has written a suspenseful narrative set against a beautifully evoked landscape. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
The Yorkshire Post - Daisy Hildyard
The prose is heavy with imagery, and sometimes you'll have to plough through a good page or two of descriptions of the valley before somebody so much as makes a cup of tea. The book situates itself in literature as well as in landscape, referencing WG Sebald, Edward Thomas, and Thomas Hardy, with its spare mythologised world unfolding across a real landscape: as the afterword explains, "only the valley is real".
The Independent - Paul Binding
There are many beauties in the novel's delineations of the land's harsh demands and intimate rewards, and of those human spirits who have derived sustenance from it. Outstanding among these last are Sarah's retrospective cameos of the painter-poet David Jones, over at Capel-y-ffin, whom she knew as a girl of nine. War-wounded Jones would surely have been gratified by the tribute.
The Guardian - Jan Morris
The book is not in the least parochial, because its themes are universal: love of land and country, love and hate of nations, love and suspicion among people, fear and war and common decency. I like to think, though, that its inner qualities are peculiarly Welsh, and by setting his story in so spare and disregarded a patch of a generally spare and disregarded little country, Sheers has given it an extra charge of allegory.
Resistance - Ingrid Wassenaar
Although it is billed as a thriller, the hard work of all this imagining puts brakes on the forward movement of the plot. Sheers stops and looks lovingly at the landscape, snow, farm work and the day-to-day minutiae of invasion. When the denouement does come, however, it comes brutally, and from nowhere. The arc of the plot has a long, slow burn, but it flames brilliantly at the end.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Sally Resistance Don't let the alternate history setting fool you; it is merely a backdrop for a novel about timeless human issues concerning war and finding the humanity in others who are unlike ourselves. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, especially of the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kim Great first novel I was reluctant to start this one because I usually don’t like alternative histories. I’m awfully glad I read it, though. This was one excellent book, one of my favorites this year. There’s little action in this novel; it’s more about... Read More
Rated of 5
by Melissa What if? Resistance is the first book I've read that deals with an alternative to the history we have come to know. With my father-in-law having fought on the beaches of Normandy, and receiving a Purple Heart for his heroism, it was hard to imagine... Read More
Rated of 5
by Dorothy Resistance is an exceptional book Using the resistance plans the British put in place during WWII, author Owen Sheers has imagined a world in which they were necessary, telling the story of a tiny farming community in Wales. The writing is wonderful, places and people drawn in... Read More
Rated of 5
by Julie Thoughtful and provocative This beautifully written story focuses on a town of women deserted by the men in their lives who have joined the British Resistance during WWII. The women's fragile relationship with the occupying Germans, and their growing mutual dependency is... Read More
Rated of 5
by Judy Imagining what-if and a poet's eye This book will stay with me for a long time. It's beautifully written and emotionally powerful. Set in a remote and mystically beautiful landscape removed from the immediate physical horrors of war, Sheers reveals the inevitable human pain, loss,... Read More
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 absolute
secrecy, even from their wives and families. Thousands of men trained
clandestinely on weekends in guerilla warfare, sabotage and spying, and were
given caches of arms, hidden in underground bunkers in the hills. The Resistance
Organization was comprised of three groups: the Fighting Patrols to carry out
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...