111. Two Remarkable Books By Owen Sheers, ‘Resistance’ and ‘I Saw a Man’.

Goodness me. I wasn’t expecting much when I picked up ‘Resistance’ for 50p in a charity shop in Kidderminster to read during my two week quarantine at Howard Springs in March 2021, but something about the cover caught my eye and honestly I am so glad it did. I was even happier to spot the name ‘Owen Sheers’ on the spine of a book in a Sally Army charity shop a few months ago – ‘Resistance’ and its author had stuck in my mind, whoever wrote it would probably write more good things!

They are completely different in theme, subject matter, location, time – but equally compelling.

Starting with ‘Resistance’ which I believe was Owen Sheers’ debut novel. I have been meaning to watch the BBC TV series that postulates a post war Britain that fell to the Nazi’s in 1940, but failing miserably because I can’t remember the name of the show. But that’s the hypothetical setting for ‘Resistance’ – the Nazi occupation of Wales in 1940, the women left to run farms and raise families with German troops billeted amongst them – their husbands left them to fight the invaders, but who knows where the husbands are now. I discover on Google that ‘Resistance’ was made into a film in 2011, although I haven’t seen it.

And some of these invaders are actually really nice people. The vast majority of us in my experience really just want to be nice to each other, and make the world a better place for our children. (And I have just used the word ‘nice’ twice, a word my English teacher in secondary school utterly scorned – sorry!). But this does lead into some very interesting and complex emotional solutions to the challenges both the invaded and the invaders face.

(Interestingly, I’m currently reading Irene Nemitskovsky’s ‘Suite Francaise’, written in 1941 before she died in Auschwitz. She was a Jew of Russian descent, living in Paris, and the second part of the book describes the inhabitants of a small French village who have been occupied by the Nazi’s. I’m drawing comparisons, I must admit).

And then I found ‘I Saw a Man’. Wales makes an appearance, but this novel is firmly based in London, Hampstead Heath to be precise. Completely different in genre too – this is set in modern times and is a mystery novel surrounding the complications that arise from the central character entering his neighbours house, finding no one there and the door unlocked…. and he’s a man with troubles in his past and many more to come now.

One of the things I always find tricky when I write these blog posts is not wanting to give too much of the story away – relatively easy with ‘Resistance’, much harder with ‘I Saw a Man’. But I think I can safely say that in it we have a man haunted by a hideously traumatic experience, (losing his wife), who leaves the Welsh cottage they lived in for a friends flat backing on to Hampstead Heath. He swiftly becomes extremely friendly with the couple next door whose marriage is shaky, and when he goes into their house because he finds the back door open, something absolutely tragic happens.

Is that enough? Would you give away more of the plot? I mean, I’m not trying to sell the books – I’ll be gifting them forward, and wanting to know what’s going to happen is what keeps me turning the pages of a book except in those rare cases where a book is simply so wonderful either in its story or its prose that it becomes like a visit to a very good old friend each time you read it. ‘Cold Mountain’ comes to mind, I’ve read it several times. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, coincidentally or not making an appearance in my one hundred and eleventieth book blog. ‘Middlemarch’, anything by Margaret Atwood and possibly surprisingly, the first three books in Jean Auels ‘Earth’s Children’ series. What would Ayla do?

In fact now I think of it I’m going to have a good old sort out of my book shelves this week. The ‘Keepers’ all need to be in one place! And of course now I keep thinking of more.. ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’…

Meanwhile I’ll be gifting these two forward. Due to the hideous cost of posting a book abroad, (or anything else – the lady at the Post Office advised me the other day to make sure if I was sending a birthday card it was small and thin!), I’ve taken to bringing the books I have read with me to the BeckyandVince market stall I do on Sundays in Caloundra, and gifting them there to people wanting to read them. Because I’m selling my bookmark thongs my customers do tend to be readers, and we have some lovely bookish conversations!

So. These two Owen Sheers books are good enough that I’ll be keeping a beady eye out for more of his work, and recommend them both as a gripping read despite the different genres. If you’re in Australia and would like one, please drop me a message – everywhere else in this wonderful world, if you see one of them, go for it.

Stay safe and well! Becky X