Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 15, 2011
I received this book for review from the author.
Summary: The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
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. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.
As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse Élisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.
Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?
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. (description from author's website & Amazon)
Thoughts: For some reason I always thought Madame Tussaud was an aristocrat. But she was a commoner, and she had an amazing talent to mold wax perfectly. In 1788 she caught the eye of royalty. Marie Grosholtz (as she was known then) was a witness to the French Revolution. She was there when it was being planned, when it all started and when it happened.
Madame Tussaud is both a vibrant and dark story. A brilliant book. Once I started it I had a hard time stopping. It evokes a whirlwind of emotions and captivates the reader. Whenever reading a book by Michelle Moran, I'm always in awe. Whether it's Ancient Egypt or France during the French Revolution she opens up the world and takes you to that very time and moment.
One of the things I found interesting was the way many of the males in the book treated Marie. Because they were so impressed with her talent with waxworks - they treated her as an equal. She was there for political talks and discussions that lead to the revolution. For the time that it was most women were mostly expected to stay quiet and in the kitchen. But because of what Marie could do she had more opportunities open up for her. She was a strong independent women, a survivor and I very much think she was a women ahead of her time.
Score: 5 Stars
Author Website: http://www.michellemoran.com/
The Heretic Queen
In 1996 I was in Blackpool, England and got the chance to visit Louis Tussaud's (Madame Tussaud's great-grandson) Waxworks, it was definitely an experience I have never forgot. The exhibit is closed down now. Some time in 2011 they will be opening up a Madame Tussauds in Blackpool. If you would like to learn more about the different branches check out the website here: Madame Tussauds (official website)