The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

In The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy, Marc is tempted by the siren call of Paris to return to the place of his birth, a place he does not remember but has the enticements of all he desires: love and art. Set in the time before Paris is invaded by Germans during WWII, LeRoy does well in depicting by turns the fear and the indifference Parisians and expats felt when Germany began to advance across Europe.  Once France begins to realize that negotiations with Germany will amount to nothing and Germany begins to take more territory, the fears become overwhelming for many, and there is an anxiousness that pervades the novel’s pages, especially as Marc’s friends panic about returning to the United States and England.

With that said, there are quite a few missed opportunities in the beginning of this novel when Marc is on a diplomatic mission with Mr. Wells (at the behest of William Bullitt, US ambassador to France) and they meet with not only Mussolini, but also Ribbentrop, who goes on a diatribe for 2 hours, and you don’t get any of the conversations!  Instead, LeRoy spends several pages on news reel footage in the local theater afterward when Marc returns and is on a date with Marie.  Missed opportunities like these set off alarm bells that more research could have been done to learn what might have been said by these high-ranking officials conquering Europe.  It also begs the question of whether this story was as well thought out as it could have been, especially given that the transitions between moments in time and locations are often left out and the reader feels adrift until they get their bearings again as to where they are, what day, and whom they encounter.

LeRoy does have a firm grasp of how to make the plot move along and how to make the reader feel the fear of the Parisians and the expats who are fleeing the city as the German’s approach.  From the overflowing train platforms to the rush out of their apartments with their clothes on their backs, the plot moves along quickly and ramps up the tension.  As Marc seeks to leave at the last minute, his friends Dora, Nigel, and David are not forgotten by the narration as their paths homeward are highlighted as well.  However, in many ways, LeRoy has sketched the character of Dora (a subordinate character) better than he has the main protagonist, Marc.

The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy had the potential to be a great novel, but with the poor plot transitions and missed opportunities for historical information and additional characterization, it becomes a chore to read.  The additional framing in the novel at the beginning and end in which Marc is reviewing his life in flashes and the colors of his soul are changing read a bit overly dramatic and take away from the rest of the story.  With so many styles and techniques running amok in this novel, it is hard for readers to feel fully engaged in the story or connected to Marc.  Unfortunately, this reader didn’t even make it halfway through the novel before deciding she’d had enough.  However, if readers are willing to overlook these issues and focus on the fast-paced plot, it could be an enjoyable read for those that like WWII novels.

About the Author:

In writing his first novel, The Siren of Paris, David LeRoy drew upon his longtime interest in philosophy, the visual arts, myth, storytelling, psychology, and Ocean Liner travel. During a visit to France to study art in the fall of 2012, LeRoy became intrigued by the French Resistance, particularly when his research revealed the role of Americans in the Resistance, as well as the limited means of escape from Europe as the war escalated. LeRoy holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and religion.

This is my 66th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.

Mailbox Monday #188

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is 5 Minutes for Books.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, which I’m going to pass onto The Girl from Diary of an Eccentric.

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences. Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

2.  The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy, which I will review in September.

In war-torn Paris during the German occupation, a legion of fiercely patriotic men uses their wits and courage to resist the encroaching German army. One of those intrepid heroes happens to be American. The Siren of Paris, the debut work of historical fiction by David LeRoy, tells a searing story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, and war that brings to vivid life the shimmering City of Lights during its darkest hours during World War II. It’s 1939, and Marc Tolbert, the French-born son of a prominent American family, has taken off for Paris to follow his dream of becoming an artist. Marc’s life soon sparkles in the ex-pat scene in Paris, befriending the famous Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company; and running across William Bullitt, US ambassador to France. At art school, he finds himself further enchanted by the alluring model Marie. Marc’s Parisian reverie, however, is soon clouded over by the increasing threat from Germany. As Americans scramble to escape Paris, he finds himself trapped by the war, and nearly meets his fate on the disastrous day of June 17, 1940, aboard the RMS Lancastria, only to then face an even more ominous fate at Buchenwald. Rigorously researched and vibrant in historical detail, The Siren of Paris reimagines one of history’s most turbulent times through the prism of an American abroad in Europe’s most harrowing days. Poignant, gripping, and thought-provoking, LeRoy’s work mines the human dilemma of revenge versus forgiveness, and vividly captures the conflicted state of survival.

What did you receive?