Book Review: *Resistance* by Anita Shreve


  • Resistance by Anita Shreve
  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (January 1, 1997)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316166584

Back of the book blurb: This tale of impossible love unfolds in a Nazi-occupied Belgian village where the wife of a Resistance worker shelters a wounded American bomber pilot in a secret hideaway.  As she nurses him back to health, Claire is drawn into a passionate love affair that seems capable of conquering it all – until the brutal realities of war shatter every idea she ever held about love, trust, and betrayal.

She is Too Fond of Books‘ review:  When my neighborhood book group selected Resistance a few months back, I thought, sure why not?!  I had recently read Testimony, which I liked because of the various points of view Shreve employed, and I had vague but fond memories of reading some of her other novels, including The Pilot’s Wife, Sea Glass, and The Weight of Water.

It wasn’t until I was about 50 pages into Resistance that I realized I had read it before.  That’s not a good sign, not remembering that I previously read the novel … it must not have made a deep impression, positive or negative.  I feel the same way after reading it for a second time.

My own fault, really, for not paying attention to the book blurb – this isn’t so much a novel about the Resistance movement during WWII as it is a love story.  It’s set in German-occupied Belgium, and the premise is that an American bomber crashes.  Pilot Ted Brice is taken to the home of Henri and Claire Daussois, where Claire slowly nurses him back to health while Henri goes off to seek additional intelligence about what the Germans know of the situation.  It’s the perfect set-up for two lonely people who are shocked by what they’ve witnessed, and seek comfort in each other’s arms.

I felt most drawn to the passages that considered the characters’ feelings about the war, rather than the personal love story.  For example, Henri contemplates how he got involved in the Resistance movement, out of a sense of obligation, rather than a true desire to aid:

Who knew what would be left when the Germans were through with them?  He’d known nothing would be the same since the day Antoine had come with the news Belgium had fallen,  and then had asked him to join the Maquis.  You couldn’t say no.  If  you were asked, you had to join. …when this goddamn war was over he wanted to have done the right thing.  Not the same as wanting to do the right thing.

And this quote, in which Ted, the American soldier, wonders how he can live the rest of his life with what he has witnessed:

Once a man had seen such things, he asked himself, how did he then erase them from his memory?  He thought of the men who returned from missions seemingly unscathed – their footsteps still jaunty, eager for whatever small pleasures the base or the town could provide them, wisecracks spinning around their heads.  Somehow these men had done what he had failed to do:  They had had the same visions and had dismissed them.  Or did they, too, have visions in the night?

Ultimately, though, Resistance is a love story, a nice predictable love story which will perhaps make the reader sigh.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood; there was  little too much mention of Ted Brice’s eyes, which were “startling, a remarkable sea green with flecks of gold.”

I did find discussion questions for Resistance online.  Reading these after finishing the novel reminded me that, even though it was perhaps lighter than I preferred, Shreve’s novel is a good way to introduce the concept of resistance fighters to those who are unfamiliar with the movement, and to open up discussion around the fictional incident.  This may make a difficult period in our history easier to discuss than a personal connection to actual events.

17 comments to Book Review: *Resistance* by Anita Shreve

  • I do have to be in the right mood for a “nice predictable love story.” I’ve read a couple of dark books here recently, so I think I would enjoy one right about now!

  • I read Resistance at least 10 years ago. I don’t remember much only that I liked it. I read her other books, Pilot’s Wife and Sea Glass. This was written way before. I became aware of Shreve’s work when I lived in NJ and became involved with a book club. The book was called Weight of Water. If you have never read her earlier stuff, I recommend to read this. I liked it because it was historical and gothic mix, with a mystery. A lot better than the movie. By the way I stopped reading her stuff because it was becoming the same. Then when I read Testimony I really enjoyed it.

  • Kathy – Yes, and the book blurb says it’s a love story – I was looking for a focus on the war story (which she does incorporate nicely, as shown in the quotes I pulled)

    Carolina – thanks for the recommendations! I remember being really touched by THE PILOT’S WIFE when I read it, and I did like the many voices Shreve used in TESTIMONY.

  • Is it just me or does the plot sound a lot like The English Patient?

  • I’ve liked some of her novels, but I think I’ll pass on this one. Testimony is here in the tbr pile though.

  • Claire and Henri…was this inspiration for Time Traveler’s Wife characters?

  • Dar

    I did think it was more a war story than a love one so it’s good to know that’s not so. I was going to read this one for the War Challenge if I ever get around to it.

  • rhapsody – I see the similarities. I think The English Patient is a more literary read.

    JoAnn- really liked the multi voices in Testimony

    Kari – I haven’t yet read TTW, so didn’t pick up on the names. Interesting!

    Dar – definitely read it for the challenge :) If it weren’t for the war, the love story wouldn’t have happened!

  • That is not a good sign when you find out you have read it but didn’t remember!! I just reviewed Testimony today (in poetic form no less) and it was OK but I wasn’t horribly impressed with Shreve as a writer so I don’t know if I’ll continue on with her as there are so many books out there. And based on your reactions, it seems like she writes OK books but nothing too spectacular, if you know what I mean.

  • I’ve had the Pilot’s Wife on my shelves since it first came out. I’m not sure why I never read it; now I wonder if I did! (LOL!) Actually, I know I haven’t read it. I’ll make that my first Shreve book.

  • I just finished Sea Glass, my first book by Shreve. I find her writing to be very smooth and readable, but there was just something missing for me. I don’t know how to explain it, but everything just felt very subdued. A little too subdued to be totally enjoyable. I wonder if all her other books are like this as well? It wasn’t a bad reading experience per sey, but I am not sure I would read another.

  • Jenners – oh, a review in verse! must go check this out!

    Beth F – THE PILOTS WIFE is one I have stronger memories of … there was a true event happening just at the same time I read it, which was very similar to the plot, so it stands out.

    Zibilee – “smooth …. readable …. subdued” do fit Shreve’s writing well. Sometimes there’s a call for that type of book; I’ve been hungry for more lately …

  • I was expecting this one to be more about the war and less a love story, so I was a bit disappointed too.

  • You’re review has been posted on the War blog.

  • Anyone knows any blog that talks about the book ” The Pilot’s Wife”??? Can you please let me know if you know such blogs?? Cause I am trying to find blogs that talk about this book so I can post them on my blog. I read this book and I love it.

  • Marie

    I’ve read most of Shrieve’s books, always in a couple of days. Whenever I start a book she’s written, I can’t stop reading, I’m living the story, feeling the characters’ emotions, and I usually end up crying my eyes out. Whatever story she’s telling (and indeed you often find the same love pattern with passion, treason and tragedy), the author always manages to take me with her characters in her story. Resistance is a moving story of love made possible and at the same time impossible beause of the war. By the way, the historical references are very accurate and bring you into 1940s occupied Belgium as if your grandmother told you about it.

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