Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution [NOOK Book]


The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax ...
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Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

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The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
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 Élisabeth, 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 cafés 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?
Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

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.

Publishers Weekly
From Versailles to Boulevard du Temple, royalists to revolutionaries, art to science, Moran (Cleopatra's Daughter) returns with a new historical novel of fierce polarities. Set during the French Revolution, with an emphasis on the Reign of Terror, Moran's fourth deftly chronicles the consequences of seeking reversals in power–or liberty. Marie Grosholtz, the talented wax sculptress who would become Madame Tussaud, narrates with verve. She and her family are "survivalists" who "straddle both worlds until it's clear which side will be the victor…" but never come across as opportunists; they are resourceful, sympathetic individuals facing an unraveling nation and an increasingly angry mob mentality. Though readers may wince at the inevitable beheadings, the storming of the Bastille, and the actions of men like Robespierre, Moran tempers brutality with Marie's romance and passion for artistry; quiet moments in the family's atelier provide much needed respite. This is an unusually moving portrayal of families in distress, both common and noble. Marie Antoinette in particular becomes a surprisingly dimensional figure rather than the fashionplate, spendthrift caricature depicted in the pamphlets of her times. A feat for Francophiles and adventurers alike. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Moran is a sprightly and gimlet-eyed writer, so this should be fun—and a possible breakout." —Library Journal
Library Journal
In her fourth novel (after Cleopatra's Daughter), Moran turns from the ancient world to the French Revolution and Madame Tussaud (1761–1850), the namesake of the famous wax museum. The book follows Marie Tussaud from her beginnings as an unknown wax sculptor working to obtain a visit from the royal family, an event that will garner acclaim for her family's wax salon. But when called to tutor a royal family member, she is placed at the center of the downfall of the French monarchy. Tussaud uses her new position to sculpt likenesses of major politicians, turning her salon into a three-dimensional newsstand for illiterate citizens. The result, however, is that the commoners soon demand that she create replicas of executed political figures directly from their corpses. Verdict Certain to be a breakout book for Moran, this superbly written and plotted work is a welcome addition to historical fiction collections. The shocking actions and behavior required of Tussaud to survive the revolution make the novel a true page-turner and a perfect reading group choice. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/10.]—Audrey M. Johnson, Arlington, VA
Kirkus Reviews

Well-plotted if sometimes slow-moving novel of the French Revolution and one now-famous survivor of that heady (or, perhaps, be-heady) time.

In late 2010, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London installed its newest exhibit: a wax effigy of Lady Gaga. All that had to have started somewhere, and that's where Moran's (Nefertiti, 2007) tale comes in, adding dimension and emotion to the known historical facts. Here we find Madame Tussaud—then Mademoiselle Grosholtz—at the beginning of an illustrious career as a maker of wax models, all the rage of an aristocracy that, to judge by some of the scenes Moran unfolds, quite deserves to be put up against the wall. This business of being immortalized in wax is "something reserved only for royals and criminals,"young Marie Grosholtz reflects, and it's a trade that she and her fashionmonger colleague Rose Bertin are all too glad to be involved with. As tutor and model maker to the court of King Louis XVI, Marie soon finds herself with a wide circle of friends royal and otherwise, including Marie Antoinette, who seems a touch more sensible than the standard account might have it. Into the picture come and go a parade's worth of eminent historical figures, from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to the Dauphin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and a very bad Robespierre. Marie is better at art than at guessing the future—"Not everyone may love the queen," she opines, "but they shall always respect her"—and it's only a matter of time before the Marquis de Sade starts to howl down from the Bastille that it's time for the sansculottes to run their own show, which leads to—well, let's just say that it leads to certain difficulties in the pursuit of the celebrity wax trade. Moran's story unfolds deliberately and sometimes glacially, but it eventually arrives where it began, having enfolded a small world of characters and situations.

Mannered and elegant; reminiscent in many ways of novels of days long past, particularly the Baroness Orczy's swifter-pacedScarlet Pimpernel.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307588678
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 2/15/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 7,039
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Michelle Moran
MICHELLE MORAN was a public high school teacher for six years and is currently a full-time writer living in California. She is the author of the national bestseller Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
December 12, 1788

Although it is mid-December and everyone with sense is huddled near a fire, more than two dozen women are pressed together in Rose Bertin’s shop, Le Grand Mogol. They are heating themselves by the handsome bronze lamps, but I do not go inside. These are women of powdered poufs and ermine cloaks, whereas I am a woman of ribbons and wool. So I wait on the street while they shop in the warmth of the queen’s favorite store. I watch from outside as a girl picks out a showy pink hat. It’s too pale for her skin, but her mother nods and Rose Bertin claps her hands eagerly. She will not be so eager when she notices me. I have come here every month for a year with the same request. But this time I am certain Rose will agree, for I am prepared to offer her something that only princes and murderers possess. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.
I stamp my feet on the slick cobblestones of the Rue Saint- Honoré. My breath appears as a white fog in the morning air. This is the harshest winter in memory, and it has come on the heels of a poor summer harvest. Thousands will die in Paris, some of the cold, others of starvation. The king and queen have gifted the city as much firewood as they can spare from Versailles. In thanks, the people have built an obelisk made entirely of snow; it is the only monument they can afford. I look down the street, expecting to see the fish sellers at their carts. But even the merchants have fled the cold, leaving nothing but the stink of the sea behind them.
When the last customer exits Le Grand Mogol, I hurry inside. I shake the rain from my cloak and inhale the warm scent of cinnamon from the fi re. As always, I am in awe of what Rose Bertin has accomplished in such a small space. Wide, gilded mirrors give the impression that the shop is larger than it really is, and the candles flickering from the chandeliers cast a burnished glow across the oil paintings and embroidered settees. It’s like entering a comtesse’s salon, and this is the effect we have tried for in my uncle’s museum. Intimate rooms where the nobility will not feel out of place. Although I could never afford the bonnets on these shelves— let alone the silk dresses of robin’s-egg blue or apple green— I come here to see the new styles so that I can copy them later. After all, that is our exhibition’s greatest attraction. Women who are too poor to travel to Versailles can see the royal family in wax, each of them wearing the latest fashions.
“Madame?” I venture, closing the door behind me.
Rose Bertin turns, and her high- pitched welcome tells me that she expects another woman in ermine. When I emerge from the shadows in wool, her voice drops. “Mademoiselle Grosholtz,” she says, disappointed.
“I gave you my answer last month.” She crosses her arms over her chest. Everything about Rose Bertin is large. Her hips, her hair, the satin bows that cascade down the sides of her dress.

“Then perhaps you’ve changed your mind,” I say quickly. “I know you have the ear of the queen. They say that there’s no one else she trusts more.”
“And you’re not the only one begging favors of me,” she snaps.
“But we’re good patrons.”
“Your uncle bought two dresses from me.”
“We would buy more if business was better.”

This isn’t a lie. In eighteen days I will be twenty-eight, but there is nothing of value I own in this world except the wax figures that I’ve created for my uncle’s exhibition. I am an inexpensive niece to maintain. I don’t ask for any of the embellishments in Le Journal des Dames, or for pricey chemise gowns trimmed in pearls. But if I had the livres, I would spend them in dressing the figures of our museum. There is no need for me to wear gemstones and lace, but our patrons come to the Salon de Cire to see the finery of kings. If I could, I would gather up every silk fan and furbelow in Rose Bertin’s shop, and our Salon would rival her own. But we don’t have that kind of money. We are showmen, only a little better-off than the circus performers who exhibit next door.
“Think of it,” I say eagerly. “I could arrange a special tableau for her visit. An image of the queen sitting in her dressing room. With you by her side. The Queen and Her Minister of Fashion,” I tell her.
Rose’s lips twitch upward. Although Minister of Fashion is an insult the papers use to criticize her influence over Marie Antoinette, it’s not far from the truth, and she knows this. She hesitates. It is one thing to have your name in the papers, but to be immortalized in wax . . . That is something reserved only for royals and criminals, and she is neither.
“So what would you have me say?” she asks slowly.
My heart beats quickly. Even if the queen dislikes what I’ve done— and she won’t, I know she won’t, not when I’ve taken such pains to get the blue of her eyes just right— the fact that she has personally come to see her wax model will change everything. Our exhibition will be included in the finest guidebooks to Paris. We’ll earn a place in every Catalog of Amusements printed in France. But most important, we’ll be associated with Marie Antoinette. Even after all of the scandals that have attached themselves to her name, there is only good business to be had by entertaining Their Majesties.
“Just tell her that you’ve been to the Salon de Cire. You have, haven’t you?”
“Of course.” Rose Bertin is not a woman to miss anything. Even a wax show on the Boulevard du Temple. “It was attractive.” She adds belatedly, “In its way.”
“So tell that to the queen. Tell her I’ve modeled the busts of Voltaire, Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin. Tell her there will be several of her. And you.”
Rose is silent. Then finally, she says, “I’ll see what I can do.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. How do you think Marie’s life differed from most other women of her time? Where would you say she placed her emphasis?

2. When Marie visited the Marquis de Sade in the Bastille, she was surprised by the conditions she found there. Were you surprised as well? If so, in what way did those conditions surpass or fall short of your expectations?

3. What was the comparison Marie made between the Bastille and Versailles? How would you describe the organization, operations, scent and reality of daily life in each location?

4. Who was the Duc D’Orleans and what type of role would you say he played regarding the French revolution? What role would you say he played in the common people’s belief regarding the king?

5. When the Royal family tried to economize their personal lifestyle and the kingdom’s expenses, how did the other nobles respond and why?

6. At one point, Marie told her neighbor, and later fiancé, Henri, she didn’t agree with Rousseau’s philosophy regarding the goodness of man. In what way would you say Marie’s philosophy regarding people differed from Rousseau?

7. How would you describe the Royal family’s knowledge of the way the populace felt about them? Why was this so? What role do you think this knowledge, or lack thereof, played as a catalyst for the revolution?

8. How would you describe the king’s style of ruling? What factor do you think this played in the people revolting against him? If he’d been a harsher ruler do you think the people would have been more or less likely to revolt and why? By the same token, if he had been a more lenient ruler do you think this would have increased or diminished the likelihood of the revolution?

9. hat do you think was the king’s greatest virtue as a ruler? What was his greatest vice? Which characteristic of his do you think played the greatest role in his ultimately losing his throne and his life?

10. What events in Madame Tussaud would you describe as ironic? Can you think of similar things or events that have occurred during your lifetime, whether in this country or elsewhere? If so, how are they similar?

11. Marie’s brother, Edmund, accused Marie of making matters worse for the Royal family by portraying them through her wax figures in a misleading or lurid way. Do you agree? How did the Salon De Cire’s exhibits mirror or differ from the way the French newspapers described the Royal family?

12. Would you describe Marie as a Royalist or a revolutionary? Why? If she’d had the ability to do so, at the end of her life what specific things do you think she would have gone back and rectified or done differently?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 167 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 167 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 3, 2011

    Enthralled until the End!

    Michelle Moran's historical novel does not disappoint in bringing the history of the French Revolution to your imagination. She did a splendid job doing research to show us the wonders of the 18th century France with all of its beauty which is twisted into a blood thirsty era without making the political aspect too stuffy.
    Madame Tussaud should bring images of impressible wonders of actors, diplomats, & newly beloved singers. Madame Tussaud's may have been a talented artist, however, her life was much more then a wax exhibit.

    Dead Bodies from the French Revolution
    We walk the streets of Boulevard du Temple through the eyes of Madame Marie Grosholtz (maiden name). She is a successful independent woman who helps her uncle, Philippe Curtis, run the Salon de Cire. Madame Grosholtz not only was graced by meeting the royal Family, King Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette, when they came to visit the Salon de Cire, but she was also requested to be the wax tutor of King Louis's sister, Madame Elizabeth.

    As events unfold it is revealed that weekly visitors of the Salon, friends of Curtis, in the after hours became major figures of the Anarchy, which was soon known as the Reign of Terror. This is hardly an understatement. Mobs killed many innocent, including women & children, commoners & nobles alike. Soon quick justice came the guillotine was introduced.

    e-Book Love!
    During this turbulent time Madame Grosholtz walks a fine line treading that of the royal aristocratic old ways and that of which this revolution is supposed to store to the common people of France. The mob holds power over her. If she denies their request she will be sent to prison or worse, find her head tumbling around after the guillotine slices through the creamy flesh of her neck. Yet, Madame Elizabeth has found a spot in Madame Grosholtz heart where she hopes that she will have mercy on her and her family if Austria armies comes to aid King Louis.

    Henri Charles was a beautiful addition to the book. His tender relationship and non too subtle hints directed towards Madame Grosholtz had me giggle and blush for the poor woman myself. She was so driven in financial and business gain that she did not see how much this man adored her before it was announced. Dear Henri was also a man who had a solid head on his shoulders and broke up the comprehensive political battle nestled in the pages.

    Overall, Madame Tussaud was a story that had me enthralled until the end. This book was extremely well written and researched!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Get it now!

    This story covers the life of Madame Tussaud through the turbulent years of the French Revolution. We find Madame Tussaud living on the Boulevard du Temple with her mother and "uncle" Curtius (he is really her mother's lover, and like a father to Marie, but as her mother is not capable of legally marrying Curtius, they live together without the benefit of marriage). Curtius is a respected wax sculptor and has taught Marie everything she knows about the craft and business, and they have grabbed the attention of the king and queen, who visit the "salon" (as they call the wax museum) , bringing great excitement to the area and lots of attention and business to the salon in the days following the royal's visit. Marie's three brothers are all members of the Swiss Guard, and sworn to protect the king. Due to line of work that Marie and Curtius are in, the family has varied associations and their home is often host to gatherings of key political figures like Robespierre, Lafayette, Duc d'Orleans (cousin of King Louis XVI), and Marat. Madame Tussaud lives next door to Henri and Jacques Charles, brothers who are scientists and use their home to perform experiments. Henri and Jacques are good friends of the family, but Henri eventually makes it clear to Marie that he is in love with her. His courtship of her and his patience with her while she delays their romance is sweet and touching. The story takes you through the French Revolution, from the grumblings of discontent to the violent clashes and the following "inquisition" reminiscent of the Salem witch trials. Friends turn on friends, neighbors on neighbors. Robespierre releases lists of "enemies" of the revolution, most of which initially are royals. People who make it on the list are targeted for arrest and often execution by guillotine, or are attacked and executed by mobs of supporters of the revolution. Later on, those that make it on the "list" are most often commoners, and in fact during the "Reign of Terror" (as it was called), the commoners suffered worse than anyone. I found it really bizarre, and was totally surprised to learn, that the revolutionaries even adopted new calendars, new methods for counting years, new fashions and holidays, and even banned religion altogether, and began imprisoning people for something as minor as failing to wear a cockade to identify them as a "Citizen" (people who supported the revolution). This was liberty? As Michelle states in her "Historical Note" at the end of the book: "In their fanaticism to spread liberty and equality, the revolutionaries created a tyranny." I do not seek out the historical fiction genre. I often find it a little bland for my tastes. However, this being my second Michelle Moran historical fiction book, I have found the author does such a great job of bringing characters to life and recreating the times and events surrounding their lives. Each time I finish one of her books, I'm left hungering for another! Engaging characters, disturbing images, shocking events. Love, family, loss. This book has it all. If you love historical fiction (and, heck, even if you don't!), pick this one up right away!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2011

    A must read!

    Wow! This book is now on my top 5 list of all my reads. Very well written. The scene description and character description fully set things. The author gave an awful period in time a very personal feeling. Any fan of historical fiction must read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fast-Paced Story That Makes History Come to Life

    Type: {Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent crowd conversation piece.}
    Rating: {An Unputdownable: Couldn't eat or sleep until I finished this book.}

    Why You're Reading It:
    - You love historical fiction that is more historical than fiction
    - Well-written informative books are your thing
    - You like a good page-turner that brings something more to the table than just entertainment

    What I Thought:

    While I love Phillipa Greggory, she writes historical fiction for fiction lovers. Madame Tussaud is a historical fiction book for history lovers. What I mean by this is that the amount of research that went into this book was so meticulous that the author even wrote an afterward admitting to the parts that she embellished, which were few (and mostly minimal in significance) for a book of this length. Michelle Moran has written a deft mix of historical accuracy and engaging fiction.

    By concentrating on Marie Grisholtz (Madame Tussaud), Moran has given us a personal view of the French Revolution. A revolution that, as an American, I knew only the basic overview that we are taught in school. For the second half of the book, my mouth was hanging open as I swiftly turned pages soaking up the information about what happened in France in the late 18th century. Completely drawn into the story, I had to remind myself that I already knew what the ultimate outcome was. However, the outcome that I knew (King XVI and Marie Antoinette die. sorry if that was news to you - if it was I recommend you go back and have a series chat with the schools that educated you) was so very limited in its information that I almost embarrassed now. Perhaps as a child I wouldn't have understood the significance of this revolution, but as an adult I am amazed that this movement is not taught in more depth in American schools (I am singling out America only because I am not privy to the education system in other countries as I am with my own).

    This is a book that anyone who is interested in monarchies, politics (including modern politics), and democracy. as well as what can happen when a country has a weak leader. I assure you, it can be disastrous - and if the revolution were to happen today, it would have been even more so (look at the turmoil in Northern Africa over the past several months if you don't believe me). And how the very people who are trying to make changes can turn into the very thing that they hate the most.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Book Review: Madame Tussaud

    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.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Read it!

    Michelle Moran has written another stunning novel about an important, yet historically overlooked woman. Her lush descriptions allow the reader to glimpse and feel the atmosphere of France during the French Revolution. Loved it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012


    This is set in one of my favorite historical eras but I felt bogged down in the slow plot. I hope others enjoy it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    Interesting history; so-so read.

    I found this book a bit difficult to really get into, until I was almost to the end. The author does a great job of presenting the timeline and following the general facts of the French Revolution, but I personally found the main character a bit dry and not very engaging. However, the end of the novel was fascinating, as you really get an idea of just how gruesome this period was. The nation devolved into almost total anarchy, no one knew who they could trust, and thousands were being killed for senseless reasons, all in the name of "La Liberté". Overall, the book was interesting for the history and I liked the idea of describing this time through the eyes of the famous wax sculptress...but I felt it was not a particularly well-executed (no pun intended) historical fiction novel.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2011

    Exemplary Writing!

    Michelle Moran is one of the most enthralling and fascinating authors I have ever read! I was never into the Revolution in France but the way she brought it to life, made me want to learn more about it. Madame Tussaud is one of the bravest and most fascinating woman I've ever read about. I highly recommend this book if you like point of view historical novels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    New location, new Michelle Moran

    Marie Grosholtz "niece" of famous wax worker Philippe Curtis. "Uncle" Curtis got his big start in Paris by doing a model for King Louis XV of his favorite concubine Madame Du Barry and just in case you are wondering Du Berry is still on exhibit today in London. Philippe Curtis ran what we would today call a museum of wax models. What made them so famous was not the person who made them but who they were modeled after. Marie and Curtis worked hard in the exhibits and shared the same talent for making extremely realistic figures of people in wax. Their exhibit would become famous for modeling famous French aristocrats like the Queen Marie Antoinette, the "most beautiful woman in France" Emilie Sainte-Amaranthe, and the most vile, creepy man who the term sadist is derived from the villainous Marquis de Sade. With figures of people who have what we can only now amount to as celebrity status filling her museum it is no wonder that even in hard times people still lined up in droves to see the exhibits.

    Prior to the revolution the Queen Marie Antoinette visited the salon and gave her approval of her likeness that Marie had previously created from looking at paintings at the palace. It was during this visit that Marie met the king's sister devout Princess Elisabeth. Marie and Elisabeth became quick friends and the princess inquired into Marie coming to the palace to give her art lessons. Princess Elisabeth wanted to expand her art horizons and focus on anything besides the current turmoil France was in and wax working was the perfect way to escape. Since the crowds at Marie's salon never really dwindled down it is only natural that the exhibit took on more of coffee house atmosphere which was all the rage at the time in France. It was where well known influential people of the forth coming revolution would come and call upon Marie's "uncle" Curtis as their friend. It would happen to be that the salon of wax works would hold friendships with some of the grizzliest men of the revolution. Only they would not find out until it was too late to turn back the clock to a time when Marie still was able to call the royals who had once visited the salon her friends. By day Marie worked with the princess on her art and by night she would host the exhibit slash salon to people like Jean-Paul Murat, Camille Desmoulins, Thomas Jefferson, and Maximilien Robespierre. Marie would walk a fine line between the two worlds until they both came down upon each other in what is hailed as the glorious French Revolution.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    Vive le roi!

    A gripping bit of historical fiction of the time when France fell from a centuries-old monarchy rule into abject tyranny. The story is told from the view of one of the Revolution's most iconic survivors, Madame Marie Grosholz Tussaud. The story carries the reader from Marie's humble beginnings to her rise in popularity and fame as the country's most well-known wax sculptress. Marie enjoys a somewhat idyllic life as she sculpts the royal family, whom she adores, and other aristocrats for the paying public to peruse in the ever-changing displays of her salon. Her family hosts a weekly dinner for a few important men of the city who were thought of as close friends. In the course of the weekly dinners, politics is, as usual, a main topic of discussion. This same group of dinner companions become the leaders in a bid for freedom, but gradually become despots themselves and known as the leaders in the Reign of Terror. Even Marie is branded as a traitor and imprisoned awaiting execution, by men she once thought of as trusted friends. Marie is a survivor. Out of necessity she has walked both sides of the street for the sake of her family. She has forsaken her true love and refused an offer of safety in a bid to keep her family from the horrors of the new tyranny. The story is ripe with the events of Marie's forced decisions during a time of upheaval. While awaiting execution in prison, Marie falls prey to a man who further becomes a captor, an emotional captor, and agrees to become his wife. The man drinks and gambles away Marie's hard-earned estate and she finally decides to leave and join that part of her family who were able to flee to England, along with her fist love, Henri Charles. The ending is somewhat dissatisfying because the reader yearns to see Marie return to a level of joyfulness. But alas, it seems this determined business woman is only intent on carrying on her trade. Perhaps she has endured too much in her life to do anything but carry on with the familiarity of her wax figures and exhibitions, even if the joy is no longer in it.

    All in all, I enjoyed this book. It is fictional work based on historic research. It serves as an inspiration to seek out other writings, such as "The Romance of Madame Tussaud's," written by one of Marie's descendants, John Theodore Tussaud.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 26, 2011

    Amazing Story

    As a lover of historical fiction, I was very excited to read this book. This is by far the author's best work. The book is written in the first person, which completely works here! A well-researched, colorful, superbly written book by an amazing author. It simply is perfection!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Historical fiction that keeps you turning the page.

    History, murder, friendships sold for nothing, love, death, wax, the guillotine, high fashion, corruption, deceit, despair, loss and more. This book has it. The story constructed around the history of the French Revolution kept me reading late into the night. I wanted to know what happened to Marie and to her family. Would she lose Henri forever? Would the salon be lost and with it all her work? Would she be captured and tried as a Royalist? Marie and her family played both sides to survive, she assisted the Kings family and she made the wax death masks for the Revolutionists. Her mother called them Survivalists, but Marie worried that by tutoring a royal and being friends with the other side, her family would suffer. Fear for her life and the lives of those she loved kept her working, but would she be able to keep playing both sides undetected? Would they capture her and her family, and if they did what would happen to them?

    The characters in this book keep you tied to the story, will they live, will they die. You really care about each one and worry for them. Marie is a strong independent woman who wants to be known for her art, but she finds that there is more to life then fame and fortune. Love is found and lost in a moment of indecision where death is around every corner. Her wax museum kept up with the news and produced scenes for the people to see of the weekly happenings(early TV news). Writers wrote and spoke the news filling the French with their sensationalistic words and lies. Truth didn't sell newspapers or make a writer famous, but the better the lies the more they sold. Isn't that the way it is with life now?
    If you love historical/fiction you will enjoy this book. This book is well written and fast to read. I now wish we hadn't skipped Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum when we were in London. I will read this author again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2015

    I just finished reading this book about Madame Tussaud. I found

    I just finished reading this book about Madame Tussaud. I found it very informative and well written. The author researched the life of Marie Grosholtz(maiden name) and what the French had to endure during the Revolution. Some parts of the book are gory but Marie survived because of her ability to make death masks. History really does come to life as you read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2015

    Interesting and Entertaining.

    This book was an easy read. If you ever wondered how people survived the French Revolution this book gives you an insight. Though I read a lot of history books this historical novel gave me an inside picture of how much the people who surrounded the King and Queen were influential in the keeping of traditions for their own profit. I would recommend this book to those interested in the details of the revolution and the history of Madame Tussaud.

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  • Posted July 25, 2014

    Awfully bloody and gruesome

    This book is for history buffs who don't mind all the the gruesome details. I suppose I would recommend it for our book club but first would give a synopsis and they can make up their minds whether they want to read it.

    I have read a couple of Michelle Moran's books, and some can never be proven to be accurate or not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    Madame Tussand

    This is a most enjoyable book in it's ability to capture every day life as it must have gone on even through the most tumultuous times. It is more enjoyable, I think, when you know Paris and are interested in European history.
    The shocking, barbaric indifference of people in dire circumstances & the empathy & sensitivity of others able to maintain their humanity in such an enviornment is exhibited beautifully in Moran's characters. One's stomach turns when Tussand is first presented with a friend's head. She maintains feigned aloofness in to preserve her own and her family's lives. As she leans on the door to accept this war trophy, supporting her own weight which seemingly has increased tenfold and listens to requests to capture in wax the likeness of the still warm head, we too are drained of normal human response so eiry, so surreal the situation. Having known nothing of this woman prior to reading this, I can say she is among history's bravest women heroes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    Interesting slant on the French Revolution

    Well written. Keeps your attention but should have been longer, incorporating the rest of the story into the book, not leaving it for end notes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    Great book! I couldn't put it down.

    Great book! I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Great for students!!

    I read this for book report in my AP European history class and it definitely helped me understand the French Revolution much more thoroughly than in class. All the historical events are precisely accurate. Moran made it a gripping tale wanting you to know what would happen next. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about the revolution quickly. I couldn't put the book down! Well done, Moran. :)

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