Book Review: Madame Tussaud – Michelle Moran

Title: Madame Tussaud
Author: Michelle Moran
ISBN: 9780307588654
Pages: 464
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Summary:

Marie Grosholtz is a talented artist who works at her family’s business, a wax museum that reflects current events in Paris in the late 1780s.  The people are disgruntled with the royal family; it seems that the king, Louis XVI, and his queen Marie Antoinette, can do nothing right.  While Marie’s home serves as a meeting place for revolutionaries such as Robespierre and Marat, she is asked to tutor the king’s sister in sculpting wax figures, and thus holds a unique place bridging the royals and revolutionaries in revolutionary France.

Review:

I’ve enjoyed all of Michelle Moran’s books (reviews of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra’s Daughter), so when I heard she had a new book coming out, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I love the way Moran finds fascinating stories and brings them to life, surrounding her readers with amazing characters and wonderful history.  I was surprised at her choice in protagonists, though, as Madame Tussaud took Moran away from the comfort zone of Egypt she’d established for herself.  Having read it, though, I’m so glad Moran made that choice because Madame Tussaud was an engrossing read from beginning to end.

Madame Tussaud is set during a difficult and complicated time in French history.  The people are dissatisfied with the monarchy; the peasants see the excess of the royals and are disgusted because they can barely eat.  On the other hand, every time the queen tries to economize, the nobles criticize her for her simple tastes.  With their birds eye view, readers can see both sides of the argument, and sympathize with those who have nothing, while at the same time understanding that they are using Marie Antoinette as a scapegoat, as someone to blame their troubled times on.  At the same time, the royals are completely clueless as to the way things actually are.  The novel progresses on a downward spiral; the reader knows things are just going to get worse, yet it’s impossible to stop reading because Marie is such a well written and sympathetic character.

Marie herself was fascinating to me.  I loved her depiction; she was strong and resourceful, while also being very feminine.  It seemed like her family was at the center of the Revolution; Marie had a lot of sympathy for the royal family and realized how unfairly they were being treated.  At the same time, though, she understood how the Salons supporting the revolutionary cause protected her family.  Marie walked a tightrope, doing what needed to be done in order to spare her family, for many years.  This was one of the most interesting parts of the book for me; so many novels are written extolling those who die for their principles.  But in some ways, I think Marie was even more brave.  She did what she had to do to ensure she and her family were protected, no matter the cost to her soul.  I found these ethical and moral questions to be fascinating; they really made me think as I was reading.

Madame Tussaud has an atmosphere of dread surrounding it.  If readers have any familiarity with the French Revolution at all, they know that things are going to get much, much worse.  Usually, that would bother me in a novel, but in this case it didn’t.  I knew events were going to unfold in a tragic way, but I couldn’t stop reading.  Moran handles this incredibly complex time period with an expert’s hand.  I absolutely loved the way she depicted everything, the questions events provoked, and the way she interspersed lighter moments between Marie and her family in order to keep the book from becoming too grave.  I was thoroughly impressed with the historical aspect of this book and highly encourage those interested in learning about the time period to read it.

I was blown away by Madame Tussaud and am so glad I didn’t hesitate to read it.  I loved how real it seemed, and how Moran was able to get into Marie’s head and deliver a three dimensional character with a distinctive personality.  Historical fiction fans should definitely pick this book up; additionally, it would make a wonderful book club pick, as the ethical questions as well as the turbulent history would make great discussion topics.

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Comments

  1. There are a number of you that have made a great case for reading this book. I have yet to read any of Moran’s books, which feels a little embarrassing to me, she is such a favorite on the blogs. I’m hoping I can make room for this one.

  2. There are a number of you that have made a great case for reading this book. I have yet to read any of Moran’s books, which feels a little embarrassing to me, she is such a favorite on the blogs. I’m hoping I can make room for this one.

  3. I’ve never had an interest in Madame Tussaud before – the whole wax museum thing never appealed. But I knew if Michelle Moran wrote a novel about her, there must be something about the woman I’d never heard. I loved this book (reviewed it last week)!! It’s completely gush-worthy 🙂

  4. I’ve never had an interest in Madame Tussaud before – the whole wax museum thing never appealed. But I knew if Michelle Moran wrote a novel about her, there must be something about the woman I’d never heard. I loved this book (reviewed it last week)!! It’s completely gush-worthy 🙂

  5. I’m due to read Cleopatra’s Daughter in a month for book club to good to know that you liked that one and that she’s written more good stuff! Thanks for the review.

  6. I’m due to read Cleopatra’s Daughter in a month for book club to good to know that you liked that one and that she’s written more good stuff! Thanks for the review.

  7. I read and love Cleopatra’s Daughter and have a few more by Moran on my shelves. She is really great at capturing the time period that she is targeting, and I have heard so many amazing things about this book that I need to read it soon. I loved your penetrating and astute review and think that I am going to be buying this one soon. Thanks!

  8. I read and love Cleopatra’s Daughter and have a few more by Moran on my shelves. She is really great at capturing the time period that she is targeting, and I have heard so many amazing things about this book that I need to read it soon. I loved your penetrating and astute review and think that I am going to be buying this one soon. Thanks!

  9. I’m so happy this is a wonderful book! I won a copy and I’m eagerly waiting to read it 🙂

  10. I’m so happy this is a wonderful book! I won a copy and I’m eagerly waiting to read it 🙂

  11. Between you and Julie, I want to drop everything and read this right now!

  12. Between you and Julie, I want to drop everything and read this right now!

  13. I need to finish reading this!

  14. I need to finish reading this!

  15. Great review — I loved it too!

  16. Great review — I loved it too!

  17. I won this book in a contest and I keep looking at the calender to see if it is “time for it to come”!

    Carol Wong

  18. I won this book in a contest and I keep looking at the calender to see if it is “time for it to come”!

    Carol Wong

  19. I gave it the same rating. I really really liked it and I adored Marie. I felt she was extremely real and you could identify with her.

    I think I just love her Egyptian historical fiction a bit more. 🙂

    My review will be up tomorrow.

  20. I gave it the same rating. I really really liked it and I adored Marie. I felt she was extremely real and you could identify with her.

    I think I just love her Egyptian historical fiction a bit more. 🙂

    My review will be up tomorrow.

  21. I just finished this and felt blown away by the story as you did.

  22. I just finished this and felt blown away by the story as you did.

  23. Glad to see you loved it. I will be reading it soon and can’t wait, as I’ve enjoyed all of Moran’s books thus far.

  24. Glad to see you loved it. I will be reading it soon and can’t wait, as I’ve enjoyed all of Moran’s books thus far.

  25. I’m absolutely adding this book to my wish list! Went to a Madame Tussaud museum this past summer and loved what little I managed to learn of her there. This title definitely piques my interest and I’d LOVE to read it! Thanks for highlighting it/reviewing it for us!

  26. I’m absolutely adding this book to my wish list! Went to a Madame Tussaud museum this past summer and loved what little I managed to learn of her there. This title definitely piques my interest and I’d LOVE to read it! Thanks for highlighting it/reviewing it for us!

  27. I still haven’t managed to get to this one but I’m really looking forward to it when I do! You’ve made it sound amazing.

  28. I still haven’t managed to get to this one but I’m really looking forward to it when I do! You’ve made it sound amazing.

  29. I just laid my hands on it today and I hope I enjoy it. Can’t wait to dig in. I enjoy historical fiction so I think I will enjoy this as well.

  30. I just laid my hands on it today and I hope I enjoy it. Can’t wait to dig in. I enjoy historical fiction so I think I will enjoy this as well.

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