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Resistance Paperback – February 10, 2009
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Magical. . . . Sheers emerges as a gifted storyteller who can meld the literal and figurative to stunning—and tragic—effect.”
“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
“Subtle and lyrical. . . . Emotionally complex, full of local rhythms and color, Sheers' first novel is hard to resist.”
“In its most surprising moments [Resistance] demonstrates fiction's unique power [to] remind us how complicated and compromising an actual act of resistance might be.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Sheers's alternate reality is frighteningly convincing and dripping with heartbreak. This is an outstanding debut.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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.”
“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’s riveting debut novel beautifully illuminates that which is unalterable: the power of love and longing, community and courage.”
—Jennifer Vanderbes, author of Easter Island
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The book is slow and takes a lot of time setting up imagery in your mind and throughout the book there are flashbacks showing how characters got to where they are which lead up to the beginning of the book. The author does a good job of fleshing out both the Welsh women of the village and the German soldiers. Nobody is two-dimensional in his book. He makes it clear to the reader why each character is doing what they are doing in this story and it sets up motivations and actions for each individual in the book and then it shows how they all intertwine. One of the main characters of the book is Cpt. Albrecht Wolfram who is a well-fleshed out character with motivations and morality far beyond how Germans are normally portrayed in WWII. I found this refreshing and infinitely more interesting than some Nazi-trope villain who only does things out of evil.
Ultimately, this is not a happy story for anyone involved, even though there are glimmers of hope throughout. I found myself thinking about this story long after I put the book down.
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. He lets a reader see what is not said, and can paint a portrait of, say, a man and woman sitting on a stone wall, feeling the tension between them build. The denouement happens quickly, near the end of the book, by virtue of an idiotic act of vengeance by a minor and weak character, but through his cowardice, Sheers brings the story to a rapid conclusion.
The book jacket is quite misleading and inaccurate. There is no "traditional" love affair between Albrecht and Sarah whatsoever, only the suggestion of it, and there is no sex at all. The 2 principals don't even touch each other for the first 225 pages! What makes "Resistance" a good story? Ordinary people reconciling their hopes and dreams with reality, that's what. The dozen people who populate the story are you and me, down-to-earth and overwhelmed by their sudden, devastating and unwelcome fate.
Other reviewers are partly right: The prose is somewhat clunky, overwritten and overly detailed, and Sheers gets self-aborbed at times in a 2-page aside. There's too much about Bach and other insignificant trivia. Is Sheers a better poet than novelist? It's too early to tell, of course, but if any critic of "Resistance" were to pen his or her first novel as well as Sheers has his first in this story, then there would be little criticism indeed. "Resistance" is a good book, a compelling story. It's hard to put down, easy to pick up, and in the end I really wanted to know what happened to all those who remained behind as well as to Sarah and Albrecht, willing to them success against all odds as they fled. The last lines leave you wanting more.
The last few pages need to be read carefully. I had to read them twice to figure out what Sarah did - with vastly different emotions depending on what I assumed she was doing. Reading these reviews maybe I should read them again as I may still have not figured out the puzzle.
Well worth reading for the descriptions of the valley and the changes brought on by the changing of the seasons, and country life in the mid-1940s. Well worth the time it takes to read.