Friday, September 28, 2012

The Siren of Paris

As is often the case when I read a new book, I Google a term or two to check on some things. When I first started to read The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy, I thought that the title of the book could refer to both meanings of the word 'siren', so I double checked definitions of this word.  A siren is, of course, a device producing a loud, often wailing sound as a signal or warning.  Having seen many films about World War II, the sound of air raid sirens immediately makes me feel anxious and filled with dread.  And when I Googled 'Paris sirens' (and skipped over the entries about Paris Hilton's perfume, Siren),  I learned that in Paris, France, and in other European countries, sirens are tested once a month in the national alerts system, and would be used "for real" to warn people in the event of nuclear war.  The French signal, I've read, sounds like the traditional air raid warning.  (I hope Europeans get used to these tests, that they become less frightening with recurrence.)  A siren is also: a woman regarded as seductive and beautiful (who may be dangerous, like the sirens in Greek mythology).  This would be Marie in the book, Marc's love interest, a nude model who poses for art students in life-drawing class, and who seems to grace the book's cover.

Published in 2012, The Siren of Paris is the author's debut novel, a story about World War II.  The book starts as a long flashback from the protagonist's grave to tell Marc Tolbert's story, which begins in 1939, when he leaves America and travels to Paris to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. Young and free, he becomes friends with an older woman, Dora, who introduces him to an elite group that includes Sylvia Beach, the owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company.  Marc accepts a job with William Bullitt, the U.S. ambassador to France, and meets leaders of other countries.  

The Siren of Paris is a war story unlike any other that I've read, because it's about the German occupation in Paris. While reading this book, I could hear the distinct, ominous sirens in my head. This novel is finely-crafted historical fiction about World War II,  and it had a firm hold on my attention throughout. It's a war story, and it's also a love story.  At École Nationale Supérieure, Marc finds himself increasingly attracted to the alluring nude model, Marie.

I admired LeRoy's intelligent and lucid writing, although some of the descriptions of war events,  "relived" by Marc, are difficult to read, as you'd expect.  However, sometimes I wasn't quite sure if what I was reading was supposed to be a dream, or real; time frames were blurry and unclear to me at times, although this could have been intentional; it was a bit confusing, although it did not detract too much from the novel. Marc seemed suspended between life and death, and between the past and present. This gives the book a dreamlike quality, although the brutal and senseless realities of war are illustrated on numerous pages.

"The door flew open to Marc's cell, and he woke to the guards screaming at him.  He struggled to stand at attention.  The same drama played out over and over again nearly every hour for three days, until finally, the door flew open, and Marc did not stand.  The guards dragged him from the cell and kicked him in the hallway.  Marc then woke up."
~The Siren of Paris, David LeRoy

La guerre, c'est l'enfer.

Thanks to Stephanie Ward and David LeRoy for including me in this book blog tour for The Siren of Paris.  Comments are welcomed.


  1. Sounds like the kind of book I'd enjoy, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    By the way I thought that you might be interested to know that we have no such testing of sirens here in England.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I wasn't sure about England.

  2. This sounds like a book for me since I love to read about Paris and about World War II.

    On another note, don't they test the sirens monthly where you live? They do here and they did the last place we lived.

  3. Sounds like a good read! Great review.

  4. It sounds interesting, I spotlighted this book at my blog not too long ago. I like that the writing has a dreamlike quality to it, sounds almost like it softens the horrible reality of war. Great review Suko :)

  5. Sounds like a great story. I've been reading more historical fiction lately. Thanks for the review.

    And about those sirens... my town tests them monthly. They are tornado sirens. One of the siren towers is two blocks from my house so I can't miss hearing it when they set it off.

    1. Wow--I didn't know about the tornado sirens, either.

  6. This book sounds awesome. I have watched a lot of films about the war and paris. Recently, Charlotte Gray. thanks for sharing!

  7. I think you liked this one more that I did. I didn't like the jarring shifts in scene, and I was more interested in Marie than Marc. Great review as always!

  8. Replies
    1. David, thank you for stopping by. I thought this was quite an absorbing story and I look forward to your next book.

  9. What a nice review, but I don't think this is a book for me, I don't really care to read books about war. I like happily ever after books, and cozy mysteries.

  10. I haven't read any WWII that deals with the occupation of Paris. Sounds interesting.


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