- 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.