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Resistanceby Owen Sheers
A great read that combines the plot of a thriller (Normandy invasion fails; Hitler successfully invades England) with the subtle language of poetry. You are propelled through this story by characters that make you care about a time that never was and a history that never happened.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"The D-Day landings have failed, and Russia has fallen. Within a short time, half of Britain is occupied by Germans. Churchill and members of his Cabinet follow King George to Canada. This is what we discover in the gripping pages of 'Resistance,' a first novel by Welsh writer Owen Sheers. He bases this daring alternate history on the existence of very real resistance pockets that... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) were part of a little known force-in-waiting during World War II. The Auxiliary Units Special Duties Section was part of a larger British Resistance Organisation, which was made up of farmers and local townspeople, largely men, who intimately knew the terrain. Recruited and trained to spy on an occupying force, their job was to go to ground, if necessary (in stocked bunkers with hidden entrances and escape exits), to run messages, to create confusion, havoc and destruction amid a possible German invading force. The details of this largely unknown history have been coming to light in recent years as documentaries, private papers and museums have begun to reveal an elaborate scheme that was never put into action. 'Resistance' takes place in the remote and beautiful Olchon Valley in Wales. Sarah Lewis, age 26, wakes one morning to find that her husband is gone. As it turns out, each of a handful of women in this rugged farming community finds herself alone. The disappearance of their men is followed by the arrival of a German patrol, under the leadership of Albrecht Wolfram, a young captain who had been a visiting student at Oxford prior to the war. What follows is an uneasy and fragile relationship between six soldiers and the Welsh farm women, all of whom are isolated during the long, snowbound winter. The major accomplishment of this novel is that Sheers never lets his considerable research distract from the focus of his story. He also has a subtle and rather beautiful understanding of emotional nuance, and this plays out among his characters, especially Sarah and Albrecht. It's a seductive story, made all the more appealing because it is so credibly set in circumstances that might have been. The reader ends up caring for everyone — Welsh or German or English. To gain empathy for a large cast of characters, all of whom line up on opposing sides of the war, is no small feat. These vulnerable men and women, indeed, become the faces of war. Frances Itani's new novel, 'Remembering the Bones,' was recently shortlisted for a Commonwealth Award." Reviewed by Frances Itani, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"A remarkable work of speculative imagination. Sheers writes with an austere, bracing beauty perfectly attuned to the stark lives (and loves) of his characters. The result is that rare gift, a literary thriller whose pages we turn slowly, even regretfully, savoring every word." Peter Ho Davies
"Resistance is at once a brilliant and sometimes frightening thriller, and a mature exploration of human blur and compromise." The Guardian (London)
"Resistance [is] an impressive debut and confirms Sheers as a writer whose talent encompasses a variety of literary forms." Observer (London)
"With an eye for exquisite detail, Sheers explores unimaginable heartbreak, cowardice, and patriotism." Very Short List
"Sheers has written a suspenseful narrative set against a beautifully evoked landscape. Highly recommended." Library Journal
About the Author
Owen Sheers is the author of The Dust Diaries, two volumes of poetry, and several works for the stage, radio, and television. He grew up in Wales and now lives in London.
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