In an atmospheric alternative history of World War II, the Nazis invade Great Britain, but a false peace lingers in one remote Welsh valley.
British author Sheers’s sensitive fiction debut pits the harsh, lyrical beauty of the natural world against the unnatural, ultimately unavoidable cruelties of war. As his story opens in the fall of 1944, the Germans are spreading across southern England after defeating the Allies at Normandy. A long-planned British resistance operation is set in motion: Overnight, seven men with farms in the Olchon valley on the Welsh borders disappear, leaving their wives to manage the backbreaking work of tending crops and animals and to wonder unceasingly about their husbands’ well-being. Soon cultured, English-speaking Captain Albrecht Wolfram and his troop of five soldiers arrive on a mysterious mission. Wolfram, skeptical of the Nazi Party’s “quasi-biblical language” and “banal certainty,” recognizes that this ancient, secluded valley offers him and his men a haven from the war. Instead of behaving like occupiers, they help the women through a harsh winter. Wolfram’s warm friendship with a young sheep farmer, Sarah Lewis, is only the most prominent of the developing relationships that lead a young member of the resistance to discern signs of collaboration among the valley women. After a period of stasis, the inevitable rude awakening ensues. There will be no happy endings.
Not really a conventional war drama, but an oblique, enigmatic ode to Welsh culture, landscape and loyalties.