Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
(From the book flap)
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 dreams 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, Princess Elisabeth, 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 cafes 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?
Moran does a wonderful job of bringing the time and place to life. There is a cast of wonderfully rounded, interesting, and complex characters. You become involved in the lives of these people. There is a lot of historical detail and you certainly can learn a lot about the French Revolution here and it comes from an interesting perspective. You watch as Marie and her friends and family try to continue to live their lives as the world is in turmoil all around them. Even though you know what is going to happen there is still a sense of tension as you watch the events unfold. The fear and terror as the Revolution becomes bloodier and bloodier can be felt. Moran manages to show a sympathetic side to the royal family’s plight as they, like the citizens, are caught in something that goes beyond all control. There is a sense of suspense as Marie tries to walk the line between the two sides and every move, even the slightest one, could be the one that sends her whole life and the lives of all those she loves to destruction. It is an exciting story that the reader can become immersed in and will end up following these people on the harrowing and emotional journey.
I want to thank Michelle Moran for providing a free copy for review.