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Resistance: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 19, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Featured in Thrillers & Suspense

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Poet Sheers takes readers to a small Welsh village during a speculative WWII—featuring a German invasion of Britain—in his auspicious debut novel. It's 1944 and Sarah Lewis and the women in Ochlon valley are left alone after all the local men disappear one night. The women's worlds suddenly shrink to the day-to-day struggles to keep their sheep farms going until the war comes to their doorsteps in the form of Capt. Albrecht Wolfram and his men, who have a murky mission to carry out in the valley. Promising to leave the women alone, the Germans occupy an abandoned house and the two camps keep mostly to themselves until a harsh winter takes hold, and it becomes clear that the locals and the Germans will have to depend on one another to survive. It's also revealed that Albrecht is just as interested as the locals are in staying away from the war for as long as possible, and the two communities begin to merge. But when the weather breaks and the valley reopens to the world—and hence the war—the peculiar idyll threatens to shatter. Sheers's alternate reality is frighteningly convincing and dripping with heartbreak. This is an outstanding debut.
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“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.”
Chicago Tribune

“Emotionally complex, full of local rhythms and color, Sheers' first novel is hard to resist.
USA Today

“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.”
Washington Post

“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.”
The Missourian

"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.”

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First American Edition edition (February 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038552210X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385522106
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Barnes on March 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely powerful story set in the imagined backdrop of an invaded and Nazi-occupied Britain, from 1944 onwards... an alternative outcome for the Second World War which could quite conceivably have come true. After failed D-Day landings the German invasion begins in earnest on British soil and this story unfolds as the country gradually becomes another occupied territory of the Third Reich - herein lies its power and horror.

One morning, in one of the most remote valleys in the Black Mountains on the English-Welsh border, twenty-six-year-old Sarah Lewis awakes unusually late in the day to find her husband has disappeared. Suspicions are confirmed as all the women in the valley meet to find that all seven men in the valley have literally vanished overnight. The women fear that their husbands have joined an underground resistance group... and they are left to tend their farms, taking on the full heavy workload previously undertaken by the men.

Fear and mistrust envelops them when a German patrol arrives in the valley on an important mission, until an uneasy truce is formed from a mutual need for help during the harsh frozen winter months in this isolated valley of the Black Mountains. The men in the patrol are war-weary and glad of their respite from the fighting; the women are struggling with their workloads.... both sides have a tendency to forget that there is a war on, and this could be a very dangerous thing to forget indeed.

Owen Sheers (also poet) writes in a beautifully lyrical way, vividly bringing to life the Olchon valley. The power of the novel lies in its ability to shock, as the slow realisation gradually dawns that this outcome could have been the one to come true... An idea that stays with you long after turning the last page.
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Perhaps the title is a bit misleading as suggested by NY Times reviewer Jess Row. The book is not so much about "resistance" in the classic WWII thriller mode -- no underground partisan night-fighters, blowing up bridges and rail lines and such -- but rather it is about the concept of resistance and the necessity of acquiescence in the face of tough choices. Sarah and Albrecht, the main characters are sane and lovely people, the kind of intelligent, sensitive human beings you wish all your distant relatives were. The other main characters are, for the most part, farm women neighbors of Sarah, in a remote, harsh, beautiful valley in Wales. Two or three of the 6 German soldiers are actually sensitive normal men. The novel is a fascinating hypothetical scenario of reversed history, the unimaginable German occupation of Britain in 1944.

The most gorgeous and heart-wrenching theme is a loving portrayal of community: sharing, helping, taking risks, sacrificing and giving to one's friends and neighbors during crisis, upheaval and loss. The isolated German soldiers participate fully in the developing communal saga in this tiny, cut-off community with the husband-less women. Not since Arturo Perez-Reverte's powerful women in "The Nautical Chart" and "Queen of the South" have we seen such backbone, ethics and power in fictional female characters.

What makes NOT knowing what happened to loved ones create a tenacious and fanciful set of explanations? Why do some people move quickly to adapt while others languish in the past remembrance? Why is "resistance" commonly thought -- improbably -- to be a masculine trait? The women in this book put a quick end to that idea. Sheers is a really good writer. He blends detailed and graphic narrative with sparse dialogue.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a promising debut novel. It starts with the assumption that the invasion of Normandy failed and that the Germans invaded England. This idea has been done before, but here, rather than a lurid Red Dawn approach, the setting is an isolated valley in Wales. Overnight, all the men of the village (all 7, as I recall) disappear one night, presumably to join a resistance movement, and leaving the women to cope for themselves. The women, who were not informed of the plan by the menfolk, adjust in a variety of ways.

If things had been left at that level, we could have a mostly quiet tale of deeply rural life in Occupied England. But the author also weaves in the story of George, a young man who is recruited for the resistance at the time of the first invasion threat in 1941. Then a German patrol led by Albrecht Wolfram enters the valley on an undisclosed mission. So the story becomes primarily that of the women and the Germans, with perhaps about 10% devoted to George and his leader. Eventually, the reason for the patrol is made clear, but in retrospect the reason seems a little far-fetched: I would have much preferred something simpler, more believable.

The author explains (through Wolfram) why the Normandy invasion failed. I don't think that there was any need to do this: the explanation comes at a time when you've either accepted the basic premise, in which case you don't need an explanation, or else you don't buy the idea, and the explanation doesn't help. Moreover, if you want to look at technical details, the Germans in 1944 lacked the means to carry out an invasion (which also requires huge logistical planning), so that whole aspect should have been left to the imagination and not explained.
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