Wednesday, January 21, 2009

THE RED SIREN: What's in a Name?

This started out to be a normal book review, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself focused on names. I always ponder the significance of titles, and with The Red Siren, MaryLu Tyndall told a great deal about the story right in the title.

On the most obvious level, The Red Siren is the name of Faith Westcott's pirate ship. Why did she choose red? Probably because she herself is a redhead.

What's the first thing most of us think of when we read "red siren?" Personally, I think of danger, a warning of some kind of trouble. Not only is the ship dangerous, but so is the captain, the lady pirate who is not what she seems. Just as traffic needs to stop when a police or emergency vehicle passes by with its lights flashing, all other vessels need to pull aside when The Red Siren comes into view. In this case, run the other way!

Digging just a bit deeper, the siren is a reminder of the mythical creature who lured sailors to their doom. These nymphs, also know as the Lorelei in German mythology, sang beautiful, bewitching songs that the poor mariners within earshot could not resist, so that they headed toward the rocks and shattered their ships. In like manner, this redheaded beauty played the part of a damsel in distress, luring unwitting captains to come to her rescue. They didn't realize their mistake until it was too late and the pirates came out of hiding, plundering the ships and setting the crew adrift.

This is one of the most appropriate titles I have seen in a long time. It works on so many levels.

Then there are the names of the three sisters in the novel: Faith, Hope, and Grace Westcott. Such names were quite common in the 1700's, but in this case there is underlying significance for each name. When their mother was alive, these girls felt loved and secure, but it all changed after her death. At that point their names held bitter irony. Faith, the main character, felt like God had turned His back on them or didn't care, and so she had no faith in Him as a Savior or Protector. One of the themes of the novel is the conflict between the real faith of Captain Dajon Waite (his last name has some meaning as well) and her lack of faith. Her sister Hope lives in hope of a man who will give her what their father has not, and unfortunately looks in the wrong places and people for acceptance and security. The youngest sister Grace has the outward appearance of living up to her name, but her Christian works and platitudes lack true graciousness. Clearly the three of them need to know the real love, grace, and security that only God can give them. Are they going to learn in time?

Danger. Warning. Need. True love. When even the title and names tell so much about a story, you can be sure it reaches a level that few romance or historical novels ever do. MaryLu Tyndall's The Red Siren, like all of her works so far, is definitely worth investing time to read.

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