Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Ever heard of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum? It has been a major tourist attraction for over 200 years. But what about the woman behind the wax? Michelle Moran paints a literary portait of Madame Tussaud as she may have been in a new eponymous work of historical fiction.

In 1788, France is on the precipice of revolution and the Salon de Cire on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris is in the business of portraying the news in wax. Showman Philippe Curtius and his niece cum protégé, Marie Grosholtz, are exceptional artists and ticket sales are never better. Curtius’ booming business owes in part to his exceptional connections; indeed, in his weekly salons his esteemed guests include future revolutionaries such as Maximilien Robespierre, Jean-Paul Marat, and Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orleans. Meanwhile, Marie uses her own connections to arrange a royal visit to the Salon de Cire. She then becomes even closer to the monarchy as wax model tutor to King Louis XVI’s sister. With ties to both commoners and aristocrats, Marie and her family must tread carefully when revolution strikes. Moran weaves an exciting tale of a family leading a perilous existence.

I really enjoyed this book. I read a lot of historical fiction anyway, and they can sometimes be a bit stiff, but reading Moran was like putting on a worn-in favorite pair of jeans. It was comfortable and flowed well with both facts and fabrications. The characters and descriptions are vivid and immerse the reader in the time and place. The only thing that took away from the narrative a bit for me was the use of some unfamiliar French terms. I would highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy works by Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory.

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