From 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.
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Marie Tussaud, she of the wax museum, lived a long and colorful life, but the focus here is on 1788�94, when she was a young woman in Paris. Under the tutelage of a Swiss doctor whom she calls her uncle, she has become an accomplished artist as well as an astute businesswoman, helping to run the family firm, the Salon de Cire, with its changing array of exhibits of historical and contemporary figures in wax. Hired as a wax tutor by the king�s sister, Madame Elisabeth, she gains an entr�e into Versailles. Her uncle�s home, meanwhile, serves as a regular meeting place for Robespierre and other revolutionaries. First and foremost a survivor, during the Revolution Marie makes models of its heroes and its victims alike. Moran takes liberties with the facts, as any historical novelist has a right to do; but some of her inventions tend to clutter up a story that is already fascinating on its own. Still, readers will be intrigued by Madame Tussaud, and by witnessing a tumultuous era through her eyes. --Mary Ellen Quinn