Anita Shreve’s Resistance was recommended to me by my lovely mum. It’s not very often our tastes of books match up, but this one proved to be an exception.
The novel is based in World War Two and the German occupation of Belgium. It alternates between various perspectives; one being Claire Daussois, a young woman, a wife, and part of the resistance group. She and her husband keep men and women who are hiding from the Nazis until they are able to be moved on and cross the border into Spain. For Claire and Henri this is the only way they feel they can get through the horrors of the war and still retain a sense of pride.
Another perspective is Ted, a bomber pilot for the American airforce. His experiences of war are very different to Claires: his are based in the air, with a sense of respect for his enemy’s skill. Here there is no such thing as retribution; only life or death; yours or theirs. He has no idea what it is like for the ordinary folk he is fighting for.
When these lives coincide in a way they never would without a war, sparks fly – in more ways than one. Anita Shreve does not shy away from the grim realities of war, but she also shows how war makes even a potentially fleeting romance all the more intense because lives are at risk – you don’t know which minute will be your last, especially when you are part of the resistance.
I really enjoyed this book and it didn’t take very long to read. Sometimes the Nazi occupation is overused and it loses its ability to shock, just because you’ve heard it so many times: millions of people died; concentration camps were awful; people starved – these phrases become meaningless words. Yet I found Shreve’s perspective refreshing. Firstly because it is based in Belgium – a country I knew was involved in the war but had no real idea what the Nazi occupation meant for them. Secondly, I love the attitudes of the characters. Each reacts differently to the war because, though it has a significant meaning to them all, it does not affect them in the same way. Ted’s experience is of fighting faceless men for a cause he does not even know about. Claire is fighting on the ground, undermining German authorities with every person she rescues and sends back home. Everything she owns: cattle, automobiles, food, all are taken by Germans. All she has left is the cause.
This book is an emotional whirlwind adventure. It has highs and lows, with real insight into human emotion and the impact of war. It’s not based on a true story, but I’m sure there are many aspects to it familiar to those who lived through such a horrific time. It’s a fantastic read, so consider it highly recommended by my mum and me.