Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

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.

However the story begins at the close of Marc's life. In the opening lines of this novel, we find ourselves at a graveside, in 1967, as Marc's spirit watches the living pay their final respects. Surrounded by the ghosts of men lost in the war, Marc sees snippets of his life flash before him. Before he can leave this world in peace, he must reconcile the sadness and guilt that burden him.

Soon we meet Marc on his carefree voyage to Paris, a place that seems far removed from the looming Nazi threat to Eastern Europe. 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?

I've read many kinds of historical fiction. In some historical novels, the setting and events unfolding are merely a backdrop for the characters and story the author has created. In The Siren of Paris, the historical setting and events are the story. While the characters and their lives are important, the exciting and horrific events of this period drive this novel. Carefully researched, well chosen details bring these events -- from pre-World War II France through the liberation -- to life. While I generally gravitate toward more character driven novels, I was absorbed and fascinated by the book.

The author's meticulous historical research really shines. Events are described in incredibly vivid detail and in a very personal and human way. For example, we see detailed news footage of the German invasion of France. We see people cramming themselves into and piling on top of train cars, trying to escape the country. We experience the destruction of an ocean liner, are drawn into the intrigue of the French resistance, and feel a character's psychological deterioration in a prison camp. The novel also touches on the post traumatic stress the protagonist suffers after the war.

I also liked the spirituality that runs through the novel. We see a priest who is well versed in dogma and without compassion contrasted with a loving, spiritual man of God. This story explores themes of faith, despair, betrayal, guilt, forgiveness, redemption, and the pivotal choices that make us who we become. There are also lightly rendered paranormal elements and interesting dream/hallucination sequences as well as a wise, thoughtful moment, at the end, where Marc's spirit realizes what he needs to achieve peace.

While it is packed with information, The Siren of Paris is readable and entertaining. This is an excellent living history book for adults and mature teens, and it might be a valuable resource for homeschooling families. Parents may want to know that while the violence is not very graphic, there are very disturbing elements along with some strong language and very mild sexuality.

I received this e-book, with no expectation of anything other than an honest opinion, as part of a virtual book tour through Promo 101 Book Promotion Services. For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit -- For more information about this novel and author, see You can also follow David on Twitter @studioleroy or on Facebook.

Rating: 4

5- Cherished Favorite4 - Keep in My Library3 - Good Read2 - Meh1 - Definitely Not
For Me


  1. This sounds fantastic. Adding it to my to-read list.

  2. Anna, from one I've gleaned from reading your blog, I think you'll really enjoy this novel and appreciate the amount of research that went into it. :)

    1. You're probably right. :) I recently received a copy and will be reviewing it for the tour on Aug. 29.

  3. Nice blog and nice review.


    Silver's Reviews

  4. I too liked the aspects of religion and faith, but I wish they were realized more fully. I think LeRoy could have used the themes in more of the story, which would have made the beginning and ending even stronger.

    1. That's a good point, Lindsey. I agree.

    2. Lindsey, I actually struggled a bit with that. It is a fine balance. How much is too much? Plus I had to balance that with everything else. The Siren of Paris is challenging because of the various conflicting issues between the war, the characters, and the plot. But, I am curious about your thoughts because the theme of faith and religion is a topic I am exploring again in another story, that has no where near the cast of characters The Siren does, set among everyday people, and it not really historical in nature. But, it is another EX-Pat Story.


Hello, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts -- reader comments make this blogging gig worthwhile. :-) Due to excessive spam, we are now moderating all comments. Like that dude in the Monty Python skit, we just Don't ... Like ... Spam. I will try to post and respond to your comments as quickly as possibly.