Monday, August 20, 2012

The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

Title: The Siren of Paris
Author: David LeRoy

Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWII / 1940s / Paris / Occupation / Concentration Camp)
Publisher/Publication Date: Self-published (2012)
Source: Promo 101 Book Promotions

Rating: Unfinished.
Did I finish?: I didn't.
One-sentence summary: An American art student finds himself changed when the Nazi-occupation of Paris forces him to make tough choices, ones that will impact him forever.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about it -- while it certainly captures the romantic/femme fatale-y aspect of the story, I don't think it quite conveys the novel's focus on WWII Paris.

I'm reminded of...: M.L. Malcolm

First line: "May the Lord be with you," the priest's voice rang out to all gathered at Marc's graveside in September 1967.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: If you're a WWII fic addict, this might be a good addition to your summertime reading.

Why did I get this book?: I can't resist WWII fic!

Review: I accepted this book without realizing it was self-published. I have mixed feelings about self-pubbed books: unless it's got great bones and wonderful story, I find I miss the polish that comes from a traditional publisher. (I will say, however, my top ten reads of 2011 and 2010 both included a self-published novel, so I'm not a total snob, I swear!)

In this case, LeRoy's historical novel set during the Nazi occupation of Paris certainly brought it in terms of plot and research. There was non-stop action. While reading, I was strongly reminded of M.L. Malcolm's novels -- which I hated but others love -- in terms of the relentless plot and the very tell-not-show style of writing LeRoy employs. (Unlike Malcolm, however, LeRoy uses dialogue to move things along, with mixed results, I think.) In terms of editing and formatting, the book was fine, and I didn't notice the kind of egregious mistakes that make self-pubbed books frustrating.

I ended up not finishing the book, stopping about 160 pages in when I found I wasn't really connected with out hero, Marc. First, the narrative style of the book didn't quite work for me -- within a single chapter, the story would jump back-and-forth between years, flashing between one story arc and another. I think it was meant to build some tension but I found it distracting -- with so much plot, I needed a linear development to help me absorb the action as well as find Marc's transformation from young American art student to war-wearied vet.

Secondly, I wasn't wild about LeRoy's dependence on networking to move Marc's story (even though I suppose that's actually how this kind of thing happens): by page twelve, Marc, an American ex-med student heading to art school in Paris, meets a woman on his transatlantic cruise who introduces him to Sylvia Beach. Through his father, he meets (and gets a job with) the US ambassador to France. The introductions project Marc into both the avant-garde art world and the international diplomatic table. (He meets both Mussolini and Hitler.)

Still, there are some unique historical events highlighted in this novel, like the destruction of the RMS Lancastria (Britain's worst ever maritime disaster), which I found fascinating. The novel reads fast, partially because of the breakneck development of the plot -- the occupation of Paris, the smuggling of Allied soldiers to safety -- and I don't think one needs to have a strong background with this era to appreciate the story.

Reader who like M.L. Malcolm's sort of splashy focus on history might like this book -- there's love, pathos, betrayal, angst, and romance -- and many other readers have nothing but raves for this book, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy of The Siren of Paris to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 8/31.

18 comments:

  1. I appreciate your honest and balanced review. I think it does what excellent reviews should -- gives readers a clear idea of whether this book is right for them, based on personal preferences. Adding myself as a follower. ;-)

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie, I appreciate it. I always hate it when a book and I don't click, but I'm aware that's usually because of me! I appreciate the follow!

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  2. Thank you for your honest review. Great job. I'll be reviewing this book early next month. I'm a new follower too.
    http://impressionsinink.blogspot.com

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    1. Annette -- I'll be sure to look for your review -- other readers always help me see books in a different light. Thank you for the follow!

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  3. I do not enjoy M.L. Malcolm's fiction, and I have a good idea that I would not be the best reader of this book. I don't like it when books aren't laid out in a linear way for no reason other than style. If it serves a purpose, then I am all in, but this just sounds like it flashes all over the place. Thanks for the very keen sighted review, and for convincing me that this is not the book for me. As usual, your review was superb :)

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    1. Thank you, Heather! I think I could see where LeRoy was going with the shifting style but in this case, it didn't quite work for me. Marc felt too similar in both the earlier years and the later years, and if I didn't pay close attention to the year subheading, I would find myself confused. Still, for some readers, I suspect this book will be a hit!

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  4. Thanks for the honest review. I too took this book without realizing it was self-published. I'm not worried...I'll take it as it goes. Sorry it didn't work for you

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    1. Serena -- I'm really looking forward to your review (I think you and Anna are reviewing it?) -- you two read so much war fic I think you've got a great view for what works and doesn't.

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    2. My review is in Sept. I think Anna's is sooner, but I could be mistaken on that.

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    3. Mine is next week. I have read a couple really good self-published books this year, so I'm not turned off by that. You just have to find the treasures amid the really bad ones. I'm just hoping this one will fit somewhere in the middle. :)

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    4. Anna -- it may be this one will be a winner -- it just didn't quite resonate for me. Can't wait to see your review.

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  5. Hmmm...interesting review. I have this on my shelf and it was a sort of back and forth decision before I accepted it. I do LOVE M.L. Malcolm's books, so that might actually be a good thing for me going into this book. I will just have to see how it goes. Thanks for this review and some food for thought.

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    1. Heather -- I immediately thought of you while I was reading -- while this book doesn't have the sexiness of Malcolm's, there's some stylistic elements that just so remind me of her work. Would love to hear what you think of this one when/if you do get to it!

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  6. Now I'm a bit nervous about this book, which I'm going to start tonight after I finish my current book. I thought Malcolm's first book was decent, but the second was way more tell-than-show, so I'm worried about the comparison. Still, I'm glad to hear that parts of it were good, and maybe it'll go better for me. Thanks for the honest review!

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  7. So far so good. I do like it. My review will be September 6. I'm also reading another book that has the same sorta theme going on, the main character is a female arriving in Paris just before Nazi Germany invades---The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynne Sheene. It's been fun to read 2 books with similar patterns.

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    1. I think I have that one in my review queue (from last year!) -- can't wait to see what you think of Siren of Paris and what similarities/dissimilarities there are to Sheene's book.

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  8. Thank you Audra for the great review. I appreciate the balance, and you have helped contribute to the formation of my next book. All positive reviews are fun, but not always nutritious. I am glad that you found the Lancastria fascinating. Thank you again.

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