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“Madame Tussaud” rocks!

July 5, 2011

“Madame Tussaud: a novel of the French Revolution” by Michelle Moran

Quercus, ISBN 978 184 9161374.  Reviewed by Natalie.

Once again, Ms Moran has written an excellent novel. Featuring Marie Grosholtz (who later became Madame Tassuad), it begins in Paris 1788 and ends in London 1812.  The French revolution occurred during this time, and Marie was one of the few who straddled both worlds of aristrocracy and commoner, yet survived this tumultous period – despite being imprisoned awaiting the guillotine.

From a young age, she was apprenticed to her mothers de-facto husband and by her twenties,  she was heir to the wax museum and a superlative sculptor.  The wax works were very popular as the scenes portrayed were a major form of news for the commoners – as many couldn’t read and newspapers were uncommon.  Marie was also engaged as sculpting tutor to the King’s sister, and regularly stayed at the palace at Versailles. 

Much of the novel is based on historical fact. For instance, did you know that the guillotine was used as an official method of execution in France from 1789 until 1977! The blade was often painted red to disguise the spray of arterial blood.  It also has great descriptions of the glorious grounds at Versailles, and the behaviour of the courtiers.

Waxwork of Madame Tussaud

I found this story riveting, well written, but at times rather gruesome  –  for instance, Marie was forced to make many wax death masks from severed heads and witnessed many vile things – I’m glad I didn’t live then!   However, this is somewhat balanced by the romantic thread throughout, as Marie finds love in unexpected places.

Highly recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction.


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