Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French RevolutionTitle: Madame Tussaud
Author: Michelle Moran
Series: Stand Alone
Pages: 464
Published: Available now from Crown Publishing
ISBN: 9780307588654
Source: Library

Description:  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 √Člisabeth, 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 caf√©s 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?

I Give This ...

Having been a big fan of Moran's previous novels, I was curious as to what she could offer The French Revolution.  I've only read a couple books with this setting, and never from such an lesser known view point.  All I know of Madame Tussaud is from the present day wax museum's names after her.

Sadly, I didn't think this was as fantastic as her other novels.  But, I don't think it has anything to do with the story.  Moran has crafted a masterpiece.  She tells the story flawlessly to the point I felt like I was there.  It just wasn't for me.  I think it's the setting of the revolution.  I just can't wrap my mind around what happened during this time period.  The poor turning on the rich and on the church was understandable.  All the had to do was follow the trail of money and food that they didn't have.  But, it reminds me of the Salem witch trials in the aspect that all your neighbor had to do was point a finger at you and you were on trial.  It was horrific.  Especially when you think that an estimated 40,000 people died during this time period.  And for what?   I'm pretty sure it wasn't life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (no matter how much the original leaders were trying to model the American Revolution).

I enjoyed the story of Marie.  She was a very talented young women living a time of absolute turmoil.  Her family has the ear of both the nobility and the National Assembly.  And what a dangerous line to walk.  I actually fond her point of view on the King and Queen to be fascinating.  I've long felt I needed that voice to make them come to life.  Once the force had started, I don't think anything could have saved them.  The Queen especially couldn't do anything right by anyone's standards.  I often saw Marie struggle with correcting people's very erroneous view points. But, she also didn't want to point out how friendly she was with the royal family.
After so much death surrounding her, I wasn't surprised that Marie was finally arrested.  There's only so many times you can see someone's head and be asked to make a death mask of it.  Especially when it's someone you know and would consider a friend.  Even more so, when you realize how they died and for what reasons.  In that aspect, I felt this novel was much more graphic that previous novels I've read about the revolution.

In the end, I felt the novel was a little drawn out and slow.  Especially in the beginning.  When the revolution was in full swing, it was just a lot of death and despair.  But, Moran makes it readable.  I'll be curious to see what I think of her next book which is also set in France during Napoleon's time.

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