Saturday, July 14, 2012

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran


Historical Fiction (426 pgs.)


Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie's museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Though many people are starving and can no longer afford bread, Marie's business is booming. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there's whispered talk of revolution.

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom. 


In honor of Bastille Day (July 14th), I thought this would be a perfect time to post my review of Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud.

This tumultuous period of history, the era of French Revolution, enjoys quite a love-hate relationship with me. I love to read about the life of Marie Antoinette, the court of pre-Revolutionary France, the general foppery and carelessness of such a fairy tale world. I hate reading of the actual revolution, the devastation, the starvation, the enormous loss of life. Quite frankly, it scares me. I always think, "how was such destruction and mass murder possible?" It really makes you realize that such a frightening time actually existed, and can exist in the world.

Madame Tussaud isn't your typical French Revolution novel. I find that most novels set in this time period ultimately end up focusing on either the royalty side of the revolution, or the commoner's side. It was thrilling to read Marie Grosholtz's (a.k.a Madame Tussaud's) extraordinary story, because, for quite a long period of time, she was able to toe the line between pro-monarchy and pro-revolution. Her life coming to light on these pages was really astounding. I had really never before read of someone who was able to stay true to both sides of the Revolution in France, without ending up in the guillotine's embrace.  

Madame Tussaud herself is a awe-inspiring character, fabulously written by Michelle Moran. She is able to take her fate into her own hands, and craft her own life in a society of rules and regulations. Her human spirit is really what makes her such a fascinating character; like most of us, she makes some unwise decisions she comes to regret later. But it is her strength, her spirit, and her voice that connects the reader to her, in every possible way. Michelle Moran crafted such a brilliant character, and it was a pleasure to read her story.

The historical setting of this novel is absolutely flawless. Michelle is the end-all when it comes to blending history and story together. I really can hardly decipher the "fiction" part of this historical fiction novel. The two elements of this novel, the history and the fiction, are put together in such a way as to incredibly enhance one another, without the fiction bleeding over into the history, or vice versa. 

The plot is incredibly gripping, especially as the Revolution reaches its peak. Page after page I could hardly believe that the story unfolding actually occurred. Before I knew it, Marie was making death masks for the members of the guillotine's victims. The story is incredibly engrossing and all too easy to get lost in (in the best of ways, of course). 

All the historical figures in this novel are stunningly brought back to life. I felt as if I was really meeting all of them, glimpsing them as they would have been in their historical prime... everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Marie Antoinette herself. Michelle does a wonderful job of bringing these characters out of their glorified historical robes and making them what they truly were... humans, just like you and me. 

Once again, Michelle Moran has crafted an absolute masterpiece of historical fiction. You can absolutely tell when reading one of her books that she truly puts her heart and soul into her writing. This was a beautiful story of a woman's strength and fortitude, in a time when her world turned against her. This is historical fiction at its finest, ladies and gents, and it was an absolute pleasure to lose myself (once again) in one of Michelle Moran's novels.



Book #5 in Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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