TheFountainPenDiva's Reviews > Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
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What a wonderful way to complete this year's personal reading challenge on Goodreads! I won a galley copy of this last year from Ms. Moran and though many books came before it, this is historical fiction at its most vibrant and engaging. Let me make one thing perfectly clear--winning a galley copy from an author does not ensure that I will automatically love the book. Then again, I wouldn't enter a contest/giveaway for something I'm not interested in.

Michelle Moran has long been known for her historical novels of Ancient Egypt, and though those novels don't engage me quite as much as those of Margaret George and Pauline Gedge (the reigning queens of Egyptian historical fiction in my opinion), Ms. Moran has really hit her stride with Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution. I had the feeling that Moran really enjoyed the meticulous research and the writing of this sweeping panoply of a novel, and that joy translates very well to the printed page.

The sad part about history is how little women tend to figure in it. Yes, there are notable exceptions to the rule, such as Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette, but for the most part, women are portrayed as pawns to great men or observers of the great events happening around them. Not here with the vibrant life of one Marie Groscholtz, soon to be known to the world as Madame Tussaud, the genius behind the world-famous wax museums which still bear her name. Marie is no mere spectator, but an active participant in the events that will shape France. She is a practical, headstrong but loyal and loving woman with a gift for being able to recreate the wax portraits of the famous and the infamous in France. What I found fascinating was her unconventional family who supported her goals to put career before marriage and family.

The French Revolution and the Reign of Terror that follows is depicted in all of its bloodcurdling detail. Ms. Moran doesn't spare the reader from the horrors of the guillotine as Paris became awash in the blood of aristocrats and innocents. Notable figures from history such as Ben Franklin, the Marquis de Layfayette and Thomas Jefferson make their appearances and are treated like human beings with a great hope for freedom. I was actually surprised that Ms. Moran even had Sally Hemings, Jefferson's slave-mistress greet Marie at the door. Most historical novelists--fictional and otherwise--like to gloss over her presence because she's so problematic for them (I wonder why, LOL). We also see Robspierre, Marat, Desmoulins as both perpetrators and eventually victims of the mayhem they inadvertently unleashed. Even that infamous reprobate, the Marquis de Sade does his best to scandalize Marie, with surprisingly comical results.

The most important aspect of Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution is that Marie is a survivor and a woman far ahead of her time. An astute businesswoman who took charge of her destiny in a time when few women dared. Bravo Michelle Moran!

Something I planned to point out yesterday. There is a certain irony about the fact that I'm reading a book about the French Revolution considering the Occupy Wall Street movements that are happening all over the world.
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TheFountainPenDiva I just received my copy. I'd forgotten all about it, LOL. I'm thrilled because I loved the Heretic Queen. Thank you so much!


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