September 1944. The women of a remote valley in Wales wake to find their husbands have disappeared in the night with neither explanation nor warning. Within weeks, a German patrol moves into the valley on some unstated mission, their commanding officer assuring the women that, contrary to reports of rape and murder by occupying forces, they will not be harmed.
So begins an uneasy peace between the women reeling from their husbands’ disappearance and the battle-weary patrol. Owen Sheers occasionally gets carried away with his descriptions, giving the impression of trying to get in every turn of phrase he can think of, but in the main, his style is movingly expressive. His evocation of a Nazi-occupied Britain describes a country of women hoping to contact their dead husbands, brothers and fathers through ouija boards, set amid brutality, tentative friendships and clandestine resistance. The book is both poetic and shocking.