CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR 4 Review #22: Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
I had always heard of the famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London. Every once in a while the news does a fluff piece about some new celebrity wax figure. I guess it is similar to getting your star on the Hollywood walk of fame. I had no idea of the history behind the museum, or who the Hell Madame Tussaud was. But, when I saw this book, and read the subtitle, “A Novel of the French Revolution”, I knew I had to read it. I am fascinated with the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. I read “A Tale of Two Cities” both my Sophomore and Senior years of High School (the one advantage of moving) and was hooked. I have read several biographies of Marie Antoinette, and in 2005 finally achieved my dream and took a vacation to Paris. One of the highlights of my trip was standing in the Place de la Concorde and looking at the plaque where the guillotine ended the French monarchy.
Madame Tussaud was born Marie Grosholtz, and at the start of the story is living with her Mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Curtius, in Paris. Curtius owned the Salon de Cire, a well-known wax museum, and Marie has learned the art of wax molding from him. Commoners and the nobility came to their Salon to see wax figures of current political figures, royalty, and miscreants like the Marquis de Sade. They continuously updated the figures to reflect the times. They were almost the TMZ of pre-revolutionary Paris. Marie is the business head of the family and she has been begging Rose Bertand, the Queen’s dressmaker, to get Queen Marie Antoinette to visit the exhibition. Marie Grosholtz is hoping that if the Queen approves of her own likeness, then the commoners will be beating down the door to visit the Salon de Cire. Apparently she didn’t notice that the Queen wasn’t really very popular anymore. Also, she must not have been paying attention to the revolutionary talk of men like Robespierre and Marat, even though her family regularly dined with them.
Eventually, Marie receives an invitation from Princess Elisabeth, the King’s sister, to come to the Royal Palace of Versailles and tutor the Princess in the art of wax sculpting. This put Marie in an awkward situation. Some evenings she would dine with the revolutionaries and some evenings she would spend at masqued balls at Versailles.
French Revolution ensues. Lots of people lose their heads.
This book was obviously well researched. The mark of a good audiobook is when I find myself going out of my way to listen to it. I couldn’t stop listening to this one. I also learned quite a bit about the French Revolution. I didn’t know that every evening all of the candles in Versailles were given to certain members of the nobility who got to sell them on the black market and keep the enormous profits. Also, Marie Antoinette was required to wear completely new clothes every day, and the old ones were given to certain members of the nobility. I read that Paris Hilton only wears an outfit once as well.
This was great historical fiction, and I am looking forward to reading some of Michelle Moran’s other novels, especially her upcoming novel about Napoleon.