Historical Fiction: Madame Tussaud, by Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The name Madame Tussaud is connected worldwide with wax museums, but few of us are aware of the role she played during the darkest days of the French Revolution. Born Marie Grosholtz, as a young girl she began learning the trade of wax modeling for entertainment purposes from her mother’s lover, Philippe Curtius. Marie became a renowned wax sculptor, and during her early adulthood, attended Curtius’s salons, which were graced by the presence of such soon-to-be luminaries as Robespierre, Marat, and Danton. When requested to serve as tutor to the king’s sister at Versaille, Marie became acquainted with many of the royals as well. As a result, her family performed a delicate balancing act at a time when accusations of treason, and immediate execution, could occur at the drop of a hat. When the Terror began, Marie was given an order she couldn’t refuse – to make death masks of celebrity victims, many of whom she knew personally.

Michelle Moran offers readers an insider’s perspective to the horrific events that transpired on the streets of Paris. In doing so, she succeeds in making the major players, both royals and revolutionaries, real and comprehensible. The story of Marie’s life is compelling, and her survival and successes are nothing short of remarkable, given her experiences. Madame Tussaud is a heartrending, dramatic, and reasonably accurate, in short, historical fiction at its best. Be sure to read the afterword, which provides an interesting slant on the events dramatized therein.

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