March 6, 2011

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

When you think of the French Revolution, what do you think of - Marie Antoinette? Storming the Bastille? How about Madame Tussaud making death masks for people that were executed?

A couple of years ago I was given the chance to review Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran, a book that has forever turned me onto historical fiction. So last month when I received a surprise package in the mail that was Michelle's newest book, Madame Tussaud, I couldn't wait to get started reading it. And it was worth it.

I'll admit I knew nothing about Madame Tussaud before I read this book, I'll even go so far as to say I had no idea she was a real person. All I knew was that there was a famous wax museum with the name. Michelle has a knack for finding characters in history that are mostly unknown and revealing them to the general public in an exciting fashion. She's done it many times before with women in Egypt and now she's done it with the French Revolution, somehow building an incredible story about a woman's life who I didn't even know existed.

Marie Grosholtz's (later Marie Tussaud) life revolves around the wax museum she and her uncle Curtis run and she does all she can to get the king and queen of France to come visit to boost the museum's visitors. What she doesn't know is how that one visit will lead her into leading a double-sided life during the upcoming French Revolution. One side as the tutor and friend to Princess Elizabeth, the king's own sister, and one side as the a host and enabler for some of the greatest influencers in the Revolution. Not to mention, her duty once the daily executions begin to go to the dead to create "death masks" so their death can be proven and remembered forever.

Marie is a fascinating woman that I loved and hated all at the same time. A woman who did things that I could never dream of doing and a woman that was in the end punished for her ambition and loyalty, a punishment that was yet another major turning point in her life. Michelle does a great job at telling Marie's story in a way that you forget it's actually a part of history. And that to me is what great historical fiction is all about.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. And while you're at it, pick up the rest of Michelle's books. I've yet to find one that I didn't love. 5 stars.

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