Source: library loan
In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject's singular story.
I loved this book! Right from the beginning, I felt like I was watching a movie- a great movie that completely immerses you in the scenery and the story. The writing was descriptive enough to allow me to picture and feel everything without giving too much so that it detracts from the story. Once I started, it was very hard to stop reading and thinking about Marie Grosholtz (Marie Tussaud's maiden name, as she is know for at least four fifths of the book).
Marie experienced the French Revolution from a unique, and precarious, position. As her and her Uncle's wax museum fame spreads through Paris, Marie is asked to tutor the King of France's sister in wax modeling. This gives Marie some personal access to the royal family while her salon at home hosts many of the revolution's leaders. Marie and her Uncle, Curtius, have a wax museum that features the political and scandalous figures of the day. As political tensions increase with the rise of the French Revolution and more figures rise to prominence, Marie continually changes out the models for the new leaders to keep in the good graces of the changing fortunes of political leaders.
This is the only way for Marie and her family to survive the revolution. As the revolution progresses, she is forced to make gruesome wax molds for the revolutionary mobs, which she eventually refuses to do and ends up as a prisoner herself.
Marie Grosholtz's life is incredible and her position in history is makes both her personal and global story fascinating. I learned a lot about the rise of the French Revolution throuhg this book. Although some facts were altered for the sake of the story, most of the major events were true.
There were a few things that I didn't like about this book. First, there is a prologue that is set in the future which gives away some of the ending that I would have prefered not to know until the end. Secondly, the book is called Madame Tussaud, but Marie doesn't become a Tussaud until very near the end of the book. I suppose Madame Tussaud is just more recognizable than Grosholtz but it is still a little misleading.
However, in spite of my minor complaints, I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a great story and some historical context.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars