Summary and book reviews of Resistance by Owen Sheers

Resistance

by Owen Sheers

Resistance
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2009, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 patrol’s 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

Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another world.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Owen Sheers's Resistance. We hope they will enrich your experience of this mesmerizing novel. To find other great books for reading groups, visit http://www.randomhouse.com/doubleday/readers/.


Reader's Guide

  1. Discuss the ways in which the very specific landscape and setting of the novel not only allows the isolationist plot to develop but also lends the narrative both an important historical and thematic context.
  2. To whom or to what does the novel's title, Resistance, apply?To what extent does Albrecht fulfill the literary figure of the “Good German?” Is he, in fact, a “good” man?
  3. To ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (541 words).

Media Reviews

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+

Publishers Weekly

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".

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.

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.

Reader Reviews

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

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 that the ...   Read More

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 such ...   Read More

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

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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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