Today is the 74th anniversary of the Munich Conference, where Chamberlain believed Hitler’s signature meant something and another great war would be averted. The very next day, Hitler’s troops annexed the Sudentenland, and the Czechoslovakian government surrendered shortly thereafter. While the claims to “never forget” are oft repeated just as we march forward into aggression, this book brings that statement into a tangible reality.
Nothing is more real than fiction. Nothing helps us make sense of the real world more than fiction. Nothing instills in us empathy for others like fiction. (Bookriot). Possibly the most elegant sentence I have read in ages. I’ve always believed that fiction can move us into a better understanding of the world around us, the differences and similarities in people, and even create emotions within us that start our own personal changes. I will admit, that a near obsessive need to know more drives my choices when it comes to book purchases. Of course, like many, I purchase on a whim, or because the cover is pretty. But occasionally, something stands out to me, and there is a near visceral reaction that has me clicking the “buy now” link. Earlier this year I told a story of My Parisian Uncle, and briefly touched on his service in World War II.
My choice of The Siren of Paris as penned by David LeRoy was one of those “compulsive” purchases, and one that reinforces my belief that not all compulsions are negative. Today I am thrilled to present a post by David, in which he discusses key elements of his book, and how it relates to the world of today. In addition, you also will be able to read my review of the book, and take a chance with the Rafflecopter to enter to win either a signed print copy of the book, or a Kindlegraphed eBook copy. If you can’t wait, or don’t wish to – I’ve also included links where you can buy the book.
Title: The Siren of Paris
Author: David LeRoy
Publisher: David Tribble Publishing
Format: Paperback and eBook
Buy Now: Paperback Kindle
About the Book: In German occupied Paris, a group of unlikely people join in collaboration to smuggle Allied airman south to Spain. 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.
The story starts in 1939, when Marc Tolbert, the French-born son of a prominent American family, takes off for Paris to follow his dream of becoming an artist. Marc’s life soon sparkles in the ex-pat scene in Paris. His new friend Dora introduces him to a circle that includes the famous Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare & Company; and he accepts a job with 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. Upon returning to Paris, his fate grows more troubled still, as he smuggles Allied airman through the American Hospital to the Paris Resistance underground, until a profound betrayal leads him into the hands of the Gestapo and onto 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, The Siren of Paris mines the human dilemma of revenge versus forgiveness, and vividly captures the conflicted state of survival.
Read on for David’s guest post, the review and more about the author
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The point of view of World War Two within The Siren of Paris enables me to explore details of the war that few modern stories cover, such as Shadow. In the world of Jungian psychology, shadow is made up of the elements of the psyche which we refuse to see and suppress in our personalities. War creates and brings the shadow out in people, and this contributes to the overall horror of war.
For instance, the character David gives a toast to the gods for 32 crossing of the Atlantic, and credits his luck with never sailing British. He kneels to pray in a small chapel in Genoa before boarding a ship to return to America. A panic breaks out on the ship due to fear of a U-Boat, and when he arrives in America; he vows never again to cross the pond upon his 33rd crossing. It is clear he is haunted by something which is his shadow, and although I never tell the reader directly, I do hint as to why. He is an orphan of the Lusitania from World War One.
Marc and Marie are too young and carefree to have much of a shadow before the start of the war. Marc’s only shadow is a failed relationship in America with a demanding and unappreciative girlfriend. Marie has a slight grudge against the British, for reasons left to the imagination. In most character driven novels about World War Two, the story is driven by the actions of the characters. The Hero is often cocksure of right over wrong, and always a step ahead of the evil Nazis. However, in The Siren of Paris, the war drives the actions of the characters in the story, as it both awakens and creates shadow in their lives. Instead of the characters struggling against the evil oppression of the Nazis, they are both pitted against their own personal fearsome demons that have been called into existence and brought to the surface by the war.
Marc becomes haunted by the death of his friend Allen, and all the civilians and solders aboard the RMS Lancastria. He finds himself unable to board a fishing boat to England due to this fears. Eventually, his decision to return to Paris is based upon a shadow called survivors guilt. The center of his shadow is represented by a white angora rabbit that only he knows was meant to be the pet of a little girl in Scotland from her father who never made it home.
Marie is completely changed in the second part of the book. Her shadow is so large and expansive it evades direct observation. There is nothing rational about her decisions. They are not based in logic. Her supervisor with the Gestapo suspects her story, but can’t disprove it either. She is deceptive to Marc, the Gestapo officer, and even herself until her shadow is revealed under the stress of her attempts to entrap Marc during the interrogation. At the heart of her shadow is a heard of stampeding horses that killed her entire family. The horses represent raw strength and power, unleashed by the chaos of the war. The statue of La Normandie, and the Jean Dunand Lacquer mural of horses in the smoking room foreshadow this element of the story.
Marc’s shadow eventually drives him to rescue and save anyone in trouble. If he fails to save someone such as Jean in the rail car to Buchenwald, he is horribly wounded by the guilt of this shadow for his failure. Marie’s shadow plunges her into embracing the darkness of collaboration and betrayal of her countrymen. It is based upon false prejudicial ideas of who is to blame for the fall of France. They are both shadows that emerge from survivor’s guilt, but take very different paths.
Total war removes every single refuge from the omnipresent fear of impending death. This atmosphere of dread stresses people to the point they break, often doing things they would never do under normal circumstances. One of the more dark stories of Paris during the war is when a Grandfather killed his own Granddaughter for eating his rations of potato.
Many modern war stories of World War Two package and market the war as an adventure. The hero overcomes the evil of an external enemy, usually the Nazi’s. Everything is very black and white as to right and wrong. This image is comforting, and reassures us that all in the world is right. What is absent is human weakness and fears brought out by the war. Unless we look directly at the shadow in humans that war brings out, we will repeat the same mistakes again.
The Siren of Paris is a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It begins the moment Marc leaves the presence of the statue of peace, La Pax, in the dinning room of the S.S. Normandie, which is known as the ship of light. It grows by the end of the third chapter when the lights are turned out in the ship leaving La Pax in the dark. This is shadow and it is growing in the book by the ratio of the dead that rise in the first chapter. Those numbers represent the proportions of a hurricane with a perfect eye of a storm.
“May the Lord be with you,” is not just an opening line by a priest. It is the heralding to the greatest and most horrible war man has ever known. What is normally consider the prayers of the people in a traditional service, become the prayers of the unknown dead of the war. My hero’s only victory is that he escapes with his soul and finds the ability to rediscover freedom through self forgiveness for being human. This may not seem like much for modern readers who expect superhero like victors. For readers who actually lived through this war experiencing the horrors, it may just give them hope that one day they will be free of the shadow of its memory.
About the Author: My first passion in life is art. I started taking photographs when I was very young, until one day, I just started drawing and painting. It was my love of art that brought me to Europe in 2010. I never suspected that my art studies would lead me to writing a novel. I consider myself more of an accidental author, and I approach the task of writing with all the same creative visual tools I have from art studies.
In writing my first novel, The Siren of Paris, I drew upon my long time 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 2010, I became increasingly intrigued by the French Resistance, particularly when my research revealed the role of Americans in the Resistance, as well as the limited means of escape from Europe as the war escalated. I hold a bachelor of arts in philosophy and religion
I am drawn to stories of struggle, resistance, and overcoming incredible odds. My choice of scene creation is absolutely impacted by my visual mind. I pre-visualize the scenes in my mind first, and then use what tools I have through the written word to describe the action.
My Review: Ultimately, this book is a wonderfully crafted dramatic saga told from the perspective of Marc Tolbert, Parisian born American who responds to the Siren call of Paris to study art in 1939. We are introduced to the litany of stories that will follow in the book by the count of souls that attend his funeral: souls that he has adopted as his cross to bear from the war.
From that viewpoint, we start to see who Marc is and how he came to have so many people; living and dead, to say goodbye. Told in small pieces, we see Marc making dangerous choices: returning to Paris, refusing to leave when war is imminent, joining a small cell of the Resistance, being desperate for a love connection and ignoring the signs of capture. Told as flashbacks and dream sequences, interspersed with of the moment commentary, this story is laden with information and tension making it a must read page turner.
Historically detailed and exquisitely described the settings come into clear focus. They are cleanly and seamlessly integrated into the story, reading much like a postcard snippet from a long awaited vacation. That technique, the overlay of the beautiful with the horrific, the mundane details in the midst of great activity give a further strength and impact to the story being detailed.
I will admit – I am addicted to Paris, and I understand her Siren’s call. But when I read of this book, I purchased it for a far different reason. I have an uncle in Paris, who went to work with the Resistance when he was just 17 and a son of a prominent family there. His name provided entrée into circles and places that many who led the double lives were unable to attain. And yet, I was nearly 20 when he started to share some of those stories with us, my cousins and I. He was a man who was haunted by those he knew who were gone, by the atrocities he saw in his beloved city, and the anger he felt to those who collaborated and were left untainted after the war. I bought the story specifically to read to help me to understand better what he may have felt. And I can only hope that he too, has attained the peace Marc was able to discover in the last pages.
This book had me in tears, with a knot in my stomach: a poignant treatise on the horrors of war be you soldier or shopkeeper, old or young. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn of the journey of forgiveness and faith, choices and fate, and above all the ability of the human spirit to endure.
Winners: Paperback: #29 Hugh O. Smith
eBook: # 2 Maggie Brumfield Bucklad
Emails have been sent to the winners.
Enter to win either a signed paperback copy of The Siren of Paris, or a Kindle Graph eBook copy. The drawing will close at midnight on October 4. Winners will be announced via Twitter and on my Facebook page, I am, Indeed