By Owen Sheers
Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385522106, 320pp.
Publication Date: February 19, 2008
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.
“Owen Sheers's Resistance is an astonishing and compelling study of human nature against the backdrop of an occupied village. Sheers plumbs the depths of love, cowardice, bravery, and the devastating effects of blind patriotism, and in doing so exposes the best and worst of humanity in unexpected and haunting ways.”
–Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
“[The] mixture of brutality and kindness is the great insight of Resistance… [The novel] demonstrates fiction’s unique power–we might call it the power of the hypothesis–to stand outside of recorded history and remind us how complicated and compromising an actual act of resistance might be.”
–New York Times Book Review
“Owen Sheers’ Resistance is a literary novel, but it's also a page turner. [It] immediately brings to mind "Dolce," the second part of Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, which also treats the deepening feeling between a German officer and a married woman in an occupied land. Sheers’ novel is even more exquisitely written and suspenseful than Nemirovsky's, and it held me in its grip until the last page.”
“Emotionally complex, full of local rhythms and color, Sheers' first novel is hard to resist.
“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. 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.”
“The finest parahistorical fiction leaves heroes and villains behind and begins with humanity. Such is the case with Owen Sheers’ taut, beautifully observed first novel…. Sheers has already published two books of poetry, and Resistance further exhibits his artistry. It's not just a question of his tossing off textured, lovely or haunting metaphors but of making them resonate and reveal…. He also excels at something more magical: finding the true, often unexpected responses for his characters, Welsh and German…. Sheers emerges as a gifted storyteller who can meld the literal and figurative to stunning–and tragic–effect.”
“Owen Sheers plausibly presents the shudder-invoking alternate reality of Britain losing the Second World War…. A compelling book.”
–New York Daily News
"A beautiful, vital novel, about the paths that can lead to war, and out of it."
–Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers
“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, author of The Welsh Girl
“Owen Sheers’ alternate history of WWII beautifully illuminates that which is unalterable: the power of love and longing, community and courage."
–Jennifer Vanderbes, author of Easter Island
“With its complex characters and arresting plot, Resistance is an irresistible read.”
"Frighteningly convincing and dripping with heartbreak. This is an outstanding debut."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Absolutely wonderful [it's] both beautifully written, an exciting story and it really penetrates into the characters of the book.
What really stands out…is the beauty of the prose…. It's an extraordinary achievement for such a young writer.
It raises very strong questions about responsibility, about collaboration…it is one of those novels that really makes you think about issues… It's extraordinary to find this in such a beautiful and moving novel.”
–A Good Read, BBC 4
"A remarkable first novel…Resistance is at once a brilliant and sometimes frightening thriller, and a mature exploration of human blur and compromise."
"Resistance [is] an impressive debut and confirms Sheers as a writer whose talent encompasses a variety of literary forms."
“Resistance is lavishly written.... Sheers’ realistic portrayal of individuals’ resistance–to the hardening of war and to the loss of a sense of self–make Resistance a debut glimmering with intrigue and promise.”