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
The author's attention to detail is pitch-perfect as she describes everything from the sumptuousness of the palaces to the squalor of Laforce, the prison in which Grosholtz was held. I was particularly appreciative of her attention to the changing clothing styles during this time period, as they were important to the political climate (clothing was used to demonstrate loyalty to one faction or another), and it also helped me more fully visualize the scenes being described. The inclusion of snippets of historical trivia heightened my interest in the story as well. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
This is an unusually moving portrayal of families in distress, both common and noble. Marie Antoinette in particular becomes a surprisingly dimensional figure rather than the fashionplate, spendthrift caricature depicted in the pamphlets of her times.
Starred Review. Certain to be a breakout book for Moran, this superbly written and plotted work is a welcome addition to historical fiction collections. The shocking actions and behavior required of Tussaud to survive the revolution make the novel a true page-turner and a perfect reading group choice.
Historical Novels Review
Editors' Choice. Moran's latest is an excellent and entertaining novel steeped in the zeitgeist of the period. Highly recommended.
Well-plotted... Mannered and elegant; reminiscent in many ways of novels of days long past, particularly the Baroness Orczy's swifter-paced Scarlet Pimpernel.
New York Journal of Books
Madame Tussaud... is brought to life in this well-crafted, fast-paced novel by the talented Michelle Moran... Michelle Moran has done what few novelists have been successfully able to accomplish, and that is to depict the full range of the swift political changes that occurred in the few years from the fall of the Bastille to the beheading of the king. Madame Tussaud promises to be a breakout book for this talented writer - a novel that is both a gripping fictionalized biography of an intriguing woman and a well-paced, illuminating chronicle of the French Revolution.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Andrea R. Madame Tussand was fascinating We have all heard of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and perhaps even visited it, but did you know who Madame Tussaud was? This book answers that question with an exciting account of the French Revolution and the involvement of many of the most... Read More
Rated of 5
by Valerie F. Greatly lacking I couldn't get very far in this book, because it felt so fake and forced. The writing was so flat, and it didn't feel like there was any real emotion behind it. It just seemed unrealistic and I didn't find it as interesting as the descriptions... Read More
The well-known tourist attraction and wax museum, Madame Tussauds, had its start in the streets of Paris just before the French Revolution. Dr. Philippe Curtius, Madame Tussaud's mentor, opened his first cabinet de cire (wax exhibition) in Paris in 1770. It proved so popular that he was forced to move to larger accommodations twice and eventually opened a second location in 1782. When Curtius died in 1794, he left the business to his protégé, Anna Maria Grosholtz, who later became Madame Tussaud when she married François Tussaud in 1795.
Tussaud began touring with her figures throughout Europe, and was in London with her eldest son Joseph in 1802 during the Napoleonic Wars. As she was unable to return to France, she spent the subsequent years exhibiting her collection through Great Britain and Ireland. The first permanent Madame Tussaud's wax museum...
Winner of BookBrowse's 2009 Nonfiction Book Award.
In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of America's founding era, prize-winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams's life story and of women's roles in the creation of the republic.
From the lush gardens of Versailles to the lights and gaiety of Paris, the verdant countryside of France, and finally the stark and terrifying isolation of a prison cell, Naslund brings the 18th Century, and Marie Antoinette, vividly to life.
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