Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
Published: Crown Publishing Company (Feb 15, 2011)
In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject's singular story.
Confession time: I love France. All of it--its history, its culture, its cities! But especially Paris and Versailles. So when Madame Tussaud showed up on my doorstep I dropped what I was reading at the time to pick up this novel. And Moran did not disappoint. She took a name and gave it a history, a purpose, a heartbeat. She breathed new life into the historical figure of Madame Tussaud.
Marie Tussaud is portrayed as a analytical business woman, making her way through the politics of the French Revolution. She cares deeply for her family's museum of wax figures and creating figures that all of Paris want to come and see. Her wax figures reflect the turbulent times and who was in and who was out. Her ventures lead her from tutoring the king's sisters to creating busts of those behead by the guillotine.
Moran's novel is full of the main characters of the French Revolution and I found myself looking up those figures and trying to figure out how Moran would adapt certain aspects into her novel. And Marie's story itself left me pondering and mulling over the whole things days later
This is a really great book for francophiles and history buffs--but it's also just a great story about surviving and seeing how far someone's limit can be pushed.
"Sometimes, it is not the kings and queen who make for the most fascinating history but the shadowy souls who happen to be in the right place at the right time." Madame Tussaud