Madame Tussaud – Michelle Moran

This is my first read from Michelle Moran and I will be coming back for more!  Madame Tussaud – A Novel of the French Revolution tells the story of Marie Grosholtz (later to become Marie Tussaud) from 1788 until 1802 and is set against the vivid backdrop of the French Revolution.  Marie’s talents as a wax modeler attract the attention of both the royal family and the French revolutionaries so she and her family strive to keep their heads (literally) whilst pleasing both factions.

Madame Tussaud is an extremely readable, entertaining story, not so much a fictional biography but an intriguing viewpoint of one of the most brutal, turbulent periods in history.  Marie is a determined, ambitious young woman, putting her work and financial security ahead of any possible romantic liaison with her suitor, the incredibly patient Henri Charles.  In that sense, she seems a very modern woman.  Despite the revolutionary call for liberty,equality and fraternity, Marie is all too aware that allegiances change on a daily basis, so much so that they can hardly keep up with all the new models needed in the wax salon. 

Moran cleverly shows both sides of the Revolution via Marie who has first hand contact with the aristocracy in the shape of Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI and also frequent encounters with revolutionaries such as Robespierre, Marat, Danton as well as Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson and even the Marquis de Sade.  These historical figures are so vividly presented, you almost feel yourself hurled into the midst of the Reign of Terror and the tension and fear is palpable, particularly when Marie is forced to make death masks from the freshly severed heads of royalty and revolutionary leaders who have fallen out of favour.

A fascinating story of an extremely talented businesswoman who lived in equally fascinating times.

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  1. After reading about Marie Antoinette and the revolution I really want to read this book, despite it being fiction (though I do love historical fiction). She sounds a brave woman, and I’d love to hear what happened in her future.

  2. I do like Michelle Moran. I’ve read and enjoyed Cleopatra’s Daughter so do want to read this one.

  3. Treez says:

    Charlie, I’ve got the Antonia Fraser book you reviewed on my wishlist now!

    Sam, I have a couple of other Michelle Moran books TBR and must get round to them soon.

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