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Resistance by Owen Sheers

Resistance (2007)

by Owen Sheers

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The women of a remote isolated valley on the border of Wales and England wake late one morning to discover that all the men of the valley have disappeared without a word. It's not impossible to guess where they have gone—to join the Resistance. Hitler invaded England that summer, and his troops have made inroads into the midlands. In shock, the women meet and agree to help each other carry on with the farming chores and to support each other until their menfolk return.

Captain Albrecht Wolfram of the Wehrmacht is chosen for a special mission. He picks a squad of men and heads north, happy to be avoiding the siege of London. He winds up in the women's valley, where he establishes an uneasy truce so that they might all survive the winter in obscurity. The results of this tentative collaboration are not difficult to predict, but nonetheless lead to some dramatic moments.

This was the first work of alternative fiction that I have read, and I wasn't sure if I would like it, given that I've read a fair amount of WWII history. But I found it to be less about the war, and more about the nature of resistance and collaboration. It was a light read, but entertaining, if predictable. The image of Churchill's last speech before departing England for Canada was quite humorous.

The idea of Auxillary Units of farmers and vicars who were to provide the last defense of England is based on historical fact. Certain locals were provided caches of arms which they hid in underground bunkers. Fortunately they were never activated, but an author's note at the end of the book includes an interview with one of the secret resisters of last resort. ( )
1 vote labfs39 | Feb 28, 2014 |
I really enjoyed Resistance; a re-imagining of the course and outcome of World War II. The Germans have the upper hand and during 1944 are able start their invasion on the south coast of England. Eventually the rest of Britain succumbs and city by city the Germans take over as the occupying power. The King, Churchill and the former government flee for Canada and form the Free British government in exile.

The backdrop of the story is cataclysmic world events, but the focus is on a group of women in a remote Welsh valley sandwiched between the Black Mountains. This physically and emotionally isolated community is 'invaded' by an advanced German army unit after all the local men have left as part of a pre-arranged plan for them to form a subversive and underground resistance movement.

Sarah Lewis is one of the women left behind and much of the story is told from her perspective. As the harsh winter of 1944 sets in and the realities of their desperate situation materialise, Sarah and the other women encounter the inevitable German unit sent to secure the area. Unknown to the women, this small military party is also searching for something else, something that Himler himself is keen to get hold of.

What follows is the growing mutual understanding between the two groups, a realisation that things will never be the same again for any of them, and that some form of accommodation has to be reached. There's a growing and inevitable closeness between Sarah and the unit's officer. For the most part I felt that the motivations and logic of the key protagonists was believable, all except the fact of the men's disappearance in the first place. We are told enough about their pre-conflict characters to realise that them leaving in the manner described just didn't ring true. And while you can expect some ambiguous elements to a story such as this, this is one aspect which I would have appreciated some form of explanation.

Owen Sheers paints a vivid and largely believable landscape, with the physical elements of this Welsh environment being extremely well drawn. It's a dense and detailed read, and one which is a real pleasure.

© Koplowitz 2013 ( )
  Ant.Harrison | Apr 29, 2013 |
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. It turned out to be a very well written story about a village in Britain in an alternate World War II history. The landing at Normandy failed and Germany has invaded Britain. The story focuses on a small village in a secluded valley where the women wake up one day to find out that all the men in the village have left. It is a very interesting story of the women's coping and moving on with life along with some tangents involving some German soldiers on a recon mission and the changes in people when surrounded by war. Very well written book.
  walterqchocobo | Apr 8, 2013 |
Honestly, I was a little disappointed in this book, partly because I had such high expectations of it. The premise is great, and the uncertainty throughout probably does reflect the reality of wartime. All in all, though, for an occupied/occupying narrative, I'd go back to Suite Francaise, where Nemirovsky does it so beautifully. ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
3.5 stars. Good story but present tense isn't my favourite and I found it odd/mildly annoying that there was NO description of the character in whose POV the story was told. That said, I did like it and will be interested to read more from this author. ( )
  Kaetrin | Aug 13, 2012 |
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September - November 1944

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

Edward Thomas, 'As the team's head-brass'
For those who would have
and those who did
First words
In the months afterwards all the women, at some point, said they'd known the men were leaving the valley.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038552210X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:35 -0400)

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In 1944, after the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, half of Britain is occupied by enemy forces, and Sarah Lewis, a young farmer's wife, awakens to find that her husband has disappeared, along with all of the men from her remote Welsh village.… (more)

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