The Larks are excited to welcome author, David LeRoy, to the nest today.
"Character Profile of Joan Rodes, The Angel of Saint-Nazaire, in The Siren of Paris" by David LeRoy
The Siren of Paris is a classic Joseph Campbell hero’s journey. Within such a formulaic structure, characters have various roles, including mentors, friends, and allies. What makes the story unique is not the structure, but the characters found within the book. The vast majority of them are real historical figures that I uncovered in my research, and a few were so remarkable that I probably wouldn’t have developed them as fictional characters, because my imagination could never be so wild.
After the sinking of the RMS Lancastria, Marc is rescued by a pregnant woman on a fishing boat called the St. Michelle. He is nursed back to health, with the other nineteen men she rescued, at a makeshift hospital set up in a hotel near Saint-Nazaire. The entire situation, within the book, seems contrived and pushes the boundaries of credibility. Marc could have been rescued from the sea, in any number of ways, that day. A simple fishing boat would not have been questionable, but one that has been commandeered by runaway British nurse, who happens to be in an advanced stage of pregnancy, seems farfetched to say the least .
Imagine my surprise when I came across the story of Joan Rodes! Just 23 at the time, she was staying near La Baule with the parents of her French husband. She had already turned down a place on an evacuation ship, and as thousands of British troops began to pour into Saint-Nazaire for evacuation, she -- along with three other staff nurses -- cared for hundreds of them at a hospital they set up at the Hermitage in La Baule. The Luftwaffe continued to strafe the waters around the area where the Lancastria had sunk, in hopes of hitting hundreds of men and women that had survived the attack. A friend of Joan named Michel Luciani prepared his fishing boat, the St. Michelle, to go out and retrieve some of the swimmers. Joan joined this effort in spite of her pregnancy. A few days later, after warding off Nazis from her hospital by marking it as “contagious” and a fight with a German officer, she miscarried. For the next several months, she was horribly sick and bed ridden, yet she somehow managed to continue carrying on this small hospital effort. Fact is far stranger than fiction.
In The Siren of Paris, Joan Rodes acts as a threshold guardian to Marc. She questions his intentions in returning to Paris. She demands he be honest with himself about his motivations. She is qualified for this role because I am confident that, as a nurse, she had seen death in the eyes of many soldiers. Joan understands her own motivation to save is also based upon a certain kind of guilt, common among health care workers. It’s a drive to save others, even to the point of risking her own life.
Once Marc passes her test, he is emotionally free to return to Paris, and her job in the story is complete. I thought very carefully about what she might have said under such circumstances, given her own background and Marc’s confession that he felt driven to do something after discovering the fate of his friend Allen. Her last words are spoken in Chapter 32, looking out the window and wishing for a break in the clouds: “Oh my Lazarus sur Mer, I raised you from the dead of the sea, and now you are searching to go do the same.”
About The Book:
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.