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Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution Hardcover – February 15, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 332 customer reviews

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Hardcover, February 15, 2011
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Historical Fiction
Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel (Six Tudor Queens)
Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel (Six Tudor Queens)
Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel (Six Tudor Queens)
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Editorial Reviews

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.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307588653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307588654
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (332 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'll start by saying I may have a bit of a bias in favoring this book. Not because I'm necessarily a big fan of Moran - this is actually the first of her books I've read - but because I'm a history nut with a penchant for the French Revolution.

With that said, I was utterly engrossed by the detailed, first-hand accounts of the revolution. Moran certainly makes us sympathetic for the Royals, which was an interesting twist. However, the historical people, places and events are intertwined with the narrative with an almost slavish devotion that could be very tedious for layman readers. At times I was reminded of a text book but I certainly learned a lot! I did find myself wishing Moran had put a bit more attention into the plot than day-by-day, episodic accounts of the revolution. Sometimes it seemed like the story was less about Madame Tussaud and more a means to depict the horrors of the revolution.

This is not a fast-paced adventure but a tome that sort of meanders through the frightening and sometimes gruesome events of the revolution. It's definitely a book for patient readers with a love of history.

The book stayed interesting because Moran's characters were just fantastic. Even those who appeared for only a brief amount of time were individual and distinct. I was so pleased by the strong central character - she was smart and practical, not wishy-washy and ridiculous as so many "heroins" tend to be. Also, Moran's research is something to marvel at. Wow!
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Format: Hardcover
I received an ARC of this book.

When I learned Michelle Moran was writing about the French Revolution I couldn't believe it. Ms. Moran loves the ancient world. I love her writing about the ancient world. Why would she leave something she's so good at to write about a different time period and country? I thought I was mistaken, but I learned my fears were true. The mistress of the ancient world was leaving Egypt behind and moving to France.

I loved Ms. Moran's writing, but would I enjoy a novel that took place in the turbulent world of the French Revolution?

This novel takes place before the French Revolution but the reader realizes very quickly that there is unrest in the country. People are angry. The country is poor. There is an unpopular foreign queen who wears lavish clothes and is isolated and out of touch with her subjects. Unrest is afoot and something has to give.

Madame Tussaud, or Marie, is a young woman who has a talent for sculpting wax figures. Along with her uncle she makes interesting exhibits that captures the public's attention. During an age when the masses were uneducated Marie was able to provide people with the latest information on political figures and she did it with a keen eye to detail.

The king and queen come to an exhibit and are impressed with her work. The king's sister, Princesse Élisabeth invites Marie to come to the palace to teach her how to sculpt. Marie is reluctant to leave her work, but she does. In doing so she learns a great deal about the monarchy. Perhaps she even grows a little sympathetic to their plight?

Tempers are boiling and soon chaos erupts in the form of the French Revolution. Ms.
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Format: Hardcover
"Madame Tussaud" is a mostly well-written work of historical fiction, and I have no doubt that it was also meticulously researched. Still, it took me well over 100 pages to really get into this book --- the beginning read a little like a dry history textbook --- but somewhere around page 150 the story finally started to grip me and I found myself turning page after page to find out what would happen next.

I must confess that I did not know all that much about the politics of the French Revolution beyond the basics --- people starving, fall of the bastille, angry peasants, king and queen beheaded --- before I started reading this book! I've read a handful of novels which used the French Revolution as a backdrop but none of them went into as much detail as Ms. Moran's book did. I've also seen Sophia Coppola's movie "Marie Antoinette" which I loved and thought was very well done ... even though it doesn't really tell you much about the Revolution --- it's really more a character study of Marie Antoinette.

Anyway, having finished "Madame Tussaud" I now feel almost like an expert on the subject ... ;o) ... That is to say, the book is very political and the writing is very detailed as far as the reasons for and events during the French Revolution are concerned. It did at times feel a little like a really long lecture by a history professor but apart from the first 130 pages or so I didn't really mind. That is probably because the writing became much more vivid and riveting as the story progressed.

The characters were definitely well-crafted and I felt that I got to know them quite well over the course of the book.
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Format: Paperback
I feel like a wreck today because I stayed up late last night reading Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud which I picked up from the library. Oh my gosh! I had no idea it was going to be so good!!!

I've studied European history, been to France, and read other fictional and nonfictional accounts of the French Revolution, but I've never felt like I had such a clear grasp of the timeline and major players of Reign of Terror until now. I wouldn't say that Michelle Moran has made learning about the French Revolution fun, because that sounds horrible, but she has my attention hooked and I can't wait to finish the last 100 pages.

Madame Tussaud was friends with people like Maximilien Robespierre, the Duc d'Orleans, Jean-Paul Marat, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Jacques-Louis David. She was also a wax tutor to Princesse Elisabeth, sister of King Louis XVI. This meant that she traveled in both circles, and somehow survived. She was known for being able to look at a face and make remarkable wax models of all of the famous people of her time. After the French Revolution, she traveled around England for 30 years before establishing her museum on Baker Street. It must have been especially horrible for the English aristocracy who paid to see her exhibit, because they would have personally known many of the executed aristocrats she had portrayed in her collection.

I've had the opportunity to go to Madame Tussaud's wax museum in various cities that I have visited, but never chose to go because I have zero interest in seeing wax models of famous celebrities. But after reading this book, I'm really kicking myself. I did not know that these museums also contain historical figures, some of which Madame Tussaud herself created off the actual corpses.
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