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Marie Tussaud, or Grosholtz as she is named throughout most of the book, was in an ideal position to narrate a history of the French Revolution. A foreign-born commoner, she was neither part of the nobility nor of the starving peasants. She and her family owned, designed and operated the wax museum that has become synonymous with her name. As the book opens, she is maneuvering to have the royal family visit the Salon, as it was then called, and thus bring more visitors in their wake. Even as she’s trying to work out this deal, Robespierre, the Duc d’Orleans, and Marat are meeting in her house and discussing the problems with the French monarchy. As time goes by, Marie does get close to members of the royal family, even as more famous Revolutionaries, such as Lafayette, meet and talk under her roof.
I absolutely loved this. I have tried and I can’t think of one complaint. Every word is perfect. It’s well-written, engaging, and hard to put down. I opened the book and found myself in 18th-century France. I just love when an author can do that for me. My reading has slowed down considerably over the past year or so but I read through this at a speed I haven’t achieved in a while.
Marie herself is believable and mostly likeable. She’s very driven to have the Salon succeed and she has a sharp business sense, especially for a woman of her times. I occasionally disagreed with some decisions that she made but I always understood where she was coming from. I can’t imagine doing some of the things that she had to in order to survive the upside-down, bloodthirsty world she finds herself in.
Even having some idea what was going to happen with the Revolution, I tore through this pretty quickly to see how things were going to work out for Marie and her family. My heart broke with her losses and I rejoiced with the family when the business did well.
I can’t remember reading many books about the French Revolution, only Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund; A Tale of Two Cities, of which I only remember the first and last lines; and The Eight by Katherine Neville, which wasn’t even really about the Revolution. After reading Madame Tussaud, I have a much better idea what happened. The speed picked up around the time of The Reign of Terror so I’m still a little vague about that, but all the stuff that came before? I have a decent comprehension now. I know, I know, these are all fiction, but I’m a recent convert to non-fiction; you’ll have to give me time to get to this topic.
And that’s all I can really say. I find myself in that position we all dislike, where I loved a book but can’t really put into words exactly why. All I can say is, if you enjoy historical fiction, and probably even if you don’t, read Madame Tussaud. I do not give out five stars lightly.
Read an excerpt.
If you liked Madame Tussaud, you might also like Cleopatra’s Daughter also by Michelle Moran, Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund, and Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (I knew I missed a book in that French Revolution list up there!).
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