I Love France #37: (2012) #62 review: The Siren of Paris

I LOVE FRANCE!

I plan to publish this meme every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

Please spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, etc !
Feel free to grab my button,
and link your own post through Mister Linky,
at the bottom of this post.

*******

The Siren of Paris

by

David LeROY

335 pages

Published by David Tribble Publishing in July 2012

Paperback received via
Book promotion Services

Siren of Paris

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

  

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

A few weeks ago, I posted an excerpt of this very good historical novel. Time to review it and give you even more the desire to read it, as it is really worth it.

I have to say I was rather confused by the first chapter, and wondered what I had got myself into, but as I had promised to be part of this Tour, I persevered and read chapter 2, and I’m so glad I did!

In Chapter 1, Marc appears as a ghost, as a priest remembers all the dead of WWII in a prayer service at a cemetery, with weird stuff, ” the body of his soul” (really??), changing colors, etc.

BUT it all makes sense when you reach the end of the book, and in between, there’s nothing of that.

It is a very poignant story of what happened to Marc, a French born American medical student, during WWII in France, with his choices and their consequences, his relationships, with friends? traitors? enemies? in the world of French Resistance.

It is indeed a lot about relationships, on how to know whom to trust, and on forgiveness and letting go; on survival, and what you do with your life then: do you feel guilty you survived? Do you offer your life for others?

Let me highlight a few things I really like:

  • starting at chapter 13: I like the way the story accelerates, with shorter stories for everyday, presented more like a journal, in different places, for the main protagonists of the story. It’s a great way to show how some tried to cope with the situation, how some fled, by plane, by train, by boat, etc.
  • chapter 14: it captures extremely well the frantic fears on a boat preparing to live Italy in the US – remember, there are lots of dangerous things in the water in between, sharks of course, but also submarines…
  • chapter 22: the back and forth is stunning here between Marc’s boat fate, and Marc’s activity with the Resistance later.
  • chapter 31: a powerful rendering of Marc’s nightmares.
  • chapter 41: amazing mix of memories, fears, nightmares, and reality, in all its madness.
  • chapter 45: “We become our decisions over time. We choose to love, or we can choose to hate. We can choose to forgive, or we can choose to take revenge; to have hope, or we can choose to fall into despair. But, regardless, we become our choices we make over time.” p. 318

And just a few things I would object to:

  • there are lots of historical people on the book. In chapter 8, featuring a visit to Germany, I was really expecting to see The American ambassador Dodd mentioned (see In The Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson). He wasn’t.
  • chapter 39: one little weird language thing. The guards are going through the cells, looking for a man called Renee. The French form Renée is for women. René is for men.
  • chapter 40: ‘Bon chance’ does not exist in French. Chance being a feminine word, it reads ‘bonne chance’. I have to say, it is very exceptional to find so few French mistakes in books on France written in English! Bravo!
  • chap 44: was the Paris neighborhood ever spelled Ménilomontant? I am only aware of Ménilmontant.

So to sum up, if you are interested in France, WWII, the French Resistance, you really have to read this book.

Do not cringe at the fact that it is self-published: it is great writing and good editing, with very few French mistakes even, as I mentioned above. This is the perfect example illustrating the fact that sometimes, self-published books can be of a high quality. And I expect to see more and more self-published books of that caliber.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

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.

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? [provided by Book Promotion Services]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A native of California, David received a BA in Philosophy and Religion at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego. After returning from a European arts study program, he became interested in the history behind the French Resistance during World War Two. Writing fiction has become his latest way to explore philosophical, moral and emotional issues of life. The Siren of Paris is his first novel.

You can visit him at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/. There’s a book trailor on this page as well, and extra material.

I got David LeRoy’s picture on Elizabeth Caulfield Felt’s Blog. I highly recommend you to go and visit this post, in which she interviews the author! You will see how much research he put in his novel.

Additional Info:  You can purchase The Siren of Paris from Amazon — http://www.amazon.com/The-Siren-Paris-David-LeRoy/dp/0983966710/ref=tmm_pap_title_0 — for more information about this virtual book tour, and to read other reviews, please visit — http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL NOVEL ON WWII?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS  IN A COMMENT PLEASE

***

Just a reminder guys:
If you link your own post on France,
please if possible
include the title of the book or topic in your link:
name of your blog (name of the book title or topic):
example : me @ myblog (Camus)
Thanks!

I love France #32: The Siren of Paris – excerpt

I LOVE FRANCE!

I plan to publish this meme every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

Please spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, etc !
Feel free to grab my button,
and link your own post through Mister Linky,
at the bottom of this post.

*******

Virtual Book Tour has this historical novel on tour, and I’m thrilled to announce I was invited to join. I will post my review on November 30.

In the meantime, to peak your interest, here is a short presentation of the novel and an excerpt, both provided by Virtual Book Tour.

This is perfect for anyone loving all that is French.

Siren of Paris

342 pages

Published by David Tribble Publishing in July 2012

SYNOPSIS

David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War II.

Marc, a French born American student, never suspected that he would become trapped in German occupied France when he came to Paris in the summer of 1939 to study art. While smuggling a  downed airman out of the American Hospital, through the Paris resistance underground, his life is plunged into total darkness when someone he trusts becomes a collaborator agent for the Gestapo. Marc then must fight to save his soul when he is banished to the “Fog and the Night” of Buchenwald, where he struggles with guilt over the consequences of having his trust betrayed.

You can purchase The Siren of Paris from Amazon — http://www.amazon.com/The-Siren-Paris-David-LeRoy/dp/0983966710/ref=tmm_pap_title_0   and learn more about this author and novel at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit — http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/

EXCERPT

June 15, 1940
Saint-Nazaire, France

 

After breaking camp that morning, the group drove the last few miles into the port of Saint-Nazaire. Marc studied the soldiers marching on the road as the truck passed them.

     “I thought, Allen, that most left at Dunkirk,” Marc asked.

     “These are the support troops, and other units not cut off at Dunkirk.”

     “But, over the radio, they said everyone.”

     “Of course they did,” Allen said, and then looked over the side toward Saint Nazaire in the distance. The truck crested the hill, and Allen saw thousands of men in front of him amassing in fields around the port city.

     “Where are you coming from?” the officer said as they stopped on the road just outside the city.

     “Nantes,” the driver replied.

     “Any Germans yet?” the officer sounded more like the guard of a camp.

     “None on the ground, but in the air we had quite a few close calls.”

     “Drive down over there and put the truck in drive, before you get out,” the soldier said.

     All along the road by the beach, soldiers were taking trucks and driving them into the open sea. Marc watched the odd carnival of men shouting as they drove the trucks and lorries into the surf.

    “Are we siphoning the petrol?” Allen asked.

     “No need. I am nearly empty, anyway,” the officer said.

     “All out back here,” Allen called to the front.

     “Oh hey, and there you go, my lady.” The officer then jumped from the truck as it drove down the beach into the surf. Just fifty yards away, another truck drove toward the sea. And all along the shore in front of them were trucks and vehicles either sticking out of the ocean, or buried in the sand from the previous high tide.

     Marc could not help but be captivated by the scene. As they walked toward the port, hundreds of trucks and cars laid abandoned. Many had open hoods and it was clear that they’d been sabotaged. A large bonfire soared into the sky as quartermasters burned supplies that were to be left behind. Along the town and docks, the city was overtaken with scores of fleeing soldiers and refugees.

     “Sister, I think we are best heading back to stay with the other men near the airway,” Allen said to Sister Clayton.

     “The children cannot sleep out in the open. I’m sure the local church can put us up. Even if we have to sleep on a floor, it is better to be inside,” she protested.

     “Well, you could be right, but Marc and I are going to go back and hang close to the soldiers, because when word comes it is time to get on a ship, we need to be with them,” Allen said.

     “We are not going to be far, but stay in the town and I am sure we will find you in the morning,” Sister Clayton said as they separated that day.

It was early yet, and the men pouring into the airfield looked like a ragtag of souls. Marc and Allen ended up walking back into the port and even taking in a movie to help the time pass. Air raid sirens made their calls and a plane dived in on the port, but nothing terribly serious happened that day. Throughout the night, sleeping out in the open with the other men of the BEF, Marc and Allen noticed the constant flow of new men arriving at all hours.

     It was the afternoon of the following day that ships came into port. Marc and Allen rushed with the soldiers of the airfield down to the port, looking for the other members of their convoy from Paris. Long lines formed as boats took the men out to the ships. A hospital ship arrived and offered to take men aboard if they abandoned their gear, but they refused.

     “Should I go look for them?” Marc asked Allen.

     “It really is not that important. They are going to catch a ship by the same dock we are on. It is not as if there are fifty ways to get out of here. They might have got out to a ship even before we made our way down here,” Allen said, while waiting in the line.

     “You’re right. I never thought about that,” Marc said. He watched more men pile into the lines down at the port.

     At ten that night, the port master shut down the line. “The lights will draw the planes! Shut off those lights!” he yelled as he passed the lines.

     It started to rain, and Marc and Allen crowded under the eave of a building with a group of soldiers. Several men ran over to the barrels, and used a tarp to create a small refuge from the soaking.

     “Wherever Sister Clayton and the others found to stay, I sure hope it’s dry,” Allen complained to Marc. Marc pulled at Allen’s coat and pointed toward the wine barrels.

     “Let’s get over by the wine. At least if they’re hit by a raid, we can get drunk as we die,” Marc joked. They made their way over to find a dry spot to sleep for the night.

     “Boys, time to muster up to the dock,” the shouts came at four in the morning.

     “Holy Mother of God, one bullet, Allen, and we’d be done for,” Marc said, amazed at just how stupid he’d been to not pay better attention. The barrels were not wine but paraffin.

     After joining a long line of soldiers, Marc and Allen finally boarded the fifth trawler to take the men out to one of the evacuation ships. Marc looked out to a single-stack liner as the small vessel took them out over the bay. It was about five decks high with a sweeping profile. The funnel was dark grayish black, the portholes blacked out with paint.

     “I feel bad, Allen, that we’re separated now from the others,” Marc said as he looked up the side of the ship.

     “Marc, there are going to be dozens of ships. Just look over there,” Marc pointed to a two-stack liner about a mile away. “No one is going to be left behind, but I cannot help who, how and when everyone gets aboard a ship home.”

     “Rank and unit?” the officer asked as they crossed the threshold.

     “I am in the diplomatic corps, and so is my friend here, from the American Embassy,” Marc said. The soldier looked perplexed, as if he couldn’t decide what to do next.

     “Like officers, except we’re civilians working for the embassy,” Marc explained.

     “Excellent, yes. Here are your cabin numbers and a ticket for the dining room,” the officer said.

     They made their way down to C Deck and to their assigned cabin. Allen opened the door and there were already two men inside. One of the men had a white Angora rabbit on his chest and the second read a book through his thick glasses.

     “Welcome,” said the man with the rabbit.

     “The bottom bunks are yours.” Soon after Marc and Allen got settled in, another group of men came to the door and had tickets with the same cabin.

     “Sorry, we are all out of room,” Allen said to the weary young soldier. The hallways filled fast with soldiers trying to get from deck to deck and cabin to cabin. Each of the men carried a duffle or sack of some sort with their gear. The voices of commanders pierced the thin wood walls of the staterooms.

HAS ANY OF YOU ALREADY READ THIS?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

***

If you link your own post on France,
please if possible
include the title of the book or topic in your link:
name of your blog (name of the book title or topic).
Thanks

Block Book Club #1

Last week, I had a fabulous experience:

In the course of several block parties and other events, I realized we had quite a few very active readers on our block – one of them read 165 books last year, including men as well.

So after some time of thinking, I finally invited my block to meet as a book club. But a special book club, a trading titles one, meaning: we do not need to all read the same book, but we share a book we just read and loved a lot.

It was so much fun, there was so much excitement, when others had read the same titles, and in the exchange after each presentation.

We were 11, 4 men and 7 women. Some couples could not make it this time.

Here are the titles we shared:

Meeting #1 on 01/13/2012

(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

1.Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah’s key (2007) [presented by P. and P. – read by 5 people]
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

2. Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace (2005) [presented by M. – read by 3 people]
Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II, this new novel is the first in seven years by the bestselling author of The Sparrow and Children of God.
It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive.
Mary Doria Russell sets her first historical novel against this dramatic background, tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters. Through them, she tells the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war’s final phase. The result of five years of meticulous research, A Thread of Grace is an ambitious, engrossing novel of ideas, history, and marvelous characters that will please Russell’s many fans and earn her even more.

3. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption (2010) [presented by J. – read by 3 people]
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Link to my review [it includes a book trailer]: https://wordsandpeace.com/2010/12/14/unbroken/

4. Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (2002) [presented by A.]
On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson’s epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish émigré scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together, and—against all odds and better judgment—they marry. They vow to raise their children beyond time, beyond identity, steeped only in song. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth grow up, however, during the Civil Rights era, coming of age in the violent 1960s, and living out adulthood in the racially retrenched late century. Jonah, the eldest, “whose voice could make heads of state repent,” follows a life in his parents’ beloved classical music. Ruth, the youngest, devotes herself to community activism and repudiates the white culture her brother represents. Joseph, the middle child and the narrator of this generation-bridging tale, struggles to find himself and remain connected to them both.

5. Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (2011) [presented by P. – read by 2 people]
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

Link to my review: wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/15/80-review-1q84/

6. Keith Richards, Life (2010) [presented by R.]
Rock ‘n’ roll’s great survivor looks back on an extraordinary life. From the Rolling Stones’ first success in the 1960s through increasing fame and addiction to the present day, Richards tells his story in his own inimitable way.

7. John Sanford, Shock Wave  (2011) (Virgil Flowers #5) [presented by B. – read by 2 people]
Talk about risky business.
The superstore chain PyeMart has its sights set on a Minnesota river town, but two very angry groups want to stop it: the local merchants fearing for their businesses, and the environmentalists predicting ecological disaster. The protests don’t seem to be slowing the project down, though, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands.
The first bomb goes off on the top floor of PyeMart’s headquarters. The second one explodes at the construction site itself. The blasts are meant to inflict maximum damage—and they do. Who’s behind the bombs and how far will they go? It’s Virgil Flowers’s job to find out . . . before more people get killed.

8. SJ Watson, Before I Go To Sleep (2011) [presented by me]
‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’ Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life

Link to my review: https://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/21/83-before-i-go-to-sleep/

9.  Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose (1971) [presented by L.]
Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchair-bound with a crippling bone disease and dependent on others for his every need, Ward is nonetheless embarking on a search of monumental proportions – to rediscover his grandmother, now long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier. Like other great quests in literature, Lyman Ward’s investigation leads him deep into the dark shadows of his own life.

10. Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle (2006) [presented by J.].
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

Other titles briefly mentioned:
– Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
– Emma Donoghue, Room
– Books by Terry Goodkind [genre: fantasy]
– Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
– Patricia MacLachlan, Waiting For The Magic [children book]