Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: December 2, 2012

Born in Paris and raised in the United States, 21-year-old Marc Tolbert enjoys the advantages of being born to a wealthy, well-connected family.. Reaching a turning point in his life, he decides to abandon his plans of going to medical school and study art in Paris. In 1939, he boards a ship and heads to France, blissfully unaware that Europe -- along with the rest of the world -- is on the brink of an especially devastating war. When he arrives at l'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, more ominous signs surface. There are windows covered with tape, sandbags shielding the fronts of important buildings, whispers of Parisian children leaving the city, and gas masks being distributed. Distracted by a blossoming love affair, Marc isn't too worried about his future, and he certainly doesn't expect a Nazi invasion of France. Marc has a long journey ahead of him. He witnesses, first-hand, the fall of Paris and the departure of the French government. Employed by an ambassador, he visits heads of state, including the horribly obese gray-haired Mussolini and the charismatic Hitler. He witnesses the effects of the tightening vise of occupation, first-hand, as he tries to escape the country. He also participates in the French resistance, spends time in prison camps, and sees the liberation of the concentration camps. During his struggles, he is reunited with the woman he loves, Marie, who speaks passionately of working with the resistance. Is she working for freedom, or is she not to be trusted?

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Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1983-077-14A / Licht / CC-BY-SA

I have very mixed feelings regarding David LeRoy's The Siren of Paris. I think the premise is great, but as I reader I found it a challenging piece to complete.

I'm gonna be upfront here, I had to reread several pages. I kept feeling as if I was missing something. I'm willing to admit I am somewhat distracted by the holiday season, the hustle and bustle of the festivities, but this was more than that. Though I am loath to admit it, I had genuine trouble following the plot over the intermittent timeline. It was an artistic approach, but confusing just the same. At least where this reader is concerned.

Another problem I had was the brevity in which the supporting cast appeared. Nigel and Dora for example, or even Sylvia. I wanted to see more of these individuals. LeRoy has a gift for creating believable cast members. I guess what I'm getting at is sour grapes in that I felt many of these characters were taken from me too soon.

On the other hand, I liked the material that LeRoy incorporated into the story. There is a lot here, particularly when it came to life in occupied France and the perpetual fear and danger in which the members of the resistance lived. I've seen plenty of movies and documentaries, but this is really the first fiction I've come across to incorporate these topics and I must say I was impressed by LeRoy's efforts.

I read a blurb for this book which referred to the story as thought-provoking while praising its examination of revenge versus forgiveness. The Siren of Paris wasn't the easiest of books to read, but it certainly met my expectations in terms of concept as set forth in that description. It is a toss up really, though I recommend the title, I can't say it is for every reader.  

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"You should have left Paris, Marc, and never returned," she said before the charges were read to him by the Gestapo officer. Marc groaned under the weight of this most painful moment, feeling a mixture of regret and shame. The light of his soul turned dark as obsidian and the clock began to run. 
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Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

It sounds promising, but I'm thinking it's probably not for me!
2 Kids and Tired Books

Anonymous said...

Erin, I enjoyed this beautifully written, thoughtful, and balanced review. I agree that this is, in some ways, a challenging read. And as I said in my review, it's less character driven that most of the novels I enjoy -- I can see why, while you appreciated this author's talent for creating believable characters, you would have liked more time with them. :-)

I think the thing I liked best about the book, as you said, was the wealth of historical information and historical detail and the way it brought the period to life, recreating the growing sense of fear and danger. Like you, I haven't run across any other novels like this.

I've been interested, lately, in learning more about the French Resistance. I watched Au Revoir Les Enfants with my teens, and I got Army of Shadows from Netflix. You mentioned movies and documentaries about this period -- are there any you'd particularly recommend? :-)

Sorry for such a long comment -- I tend to do that. I'm off to add you to my feed reader, because I really enjoy your blog.

David Tribble said...

Thank you for the great review.

Anonymous said...

You'd be surprised how often I say that Holly!

You're very welcome David.

Thank you for the feedback Quirky BookandFilmBuff and don't worry, I love long comments. I might be able to dig up a few films for you. I'll let you know what I come up with. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh and the Eternal Sunshine icon, very cool.