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Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

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Divia
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Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Post by Divia » Tue February 15th, 2011, 2:11 am

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. Moran does an excellent job of portraying the lawlessness and often times helplessness of the people during the revolution, and also the Reign of Terror.

Marie's world is constantly in a state of motion. We see those around her being killed senselessly. The world she has known is being turned upside down. Marie is given some grim tasks, yet through it all she remains strong. She is a fighter.

The details Ms. Moran is known for shine through in this novel just like her previous works. The reader is immersed in the time period without being overwhelmed by wordy passages found in many historical fiction novels.

There are a lot of characters in this novel, and there is a list of them in the front of the book along with a time line, historical notes and also a glossary for those who are unfamiliar with French(which is good because I failed it twice in high school).

So back to my original question: ...but would I enjoy a novel that took place in the turbulent world of the French Revolution? I would say the answer to that question is YES! I enjoyed Madame Tussaud and Ms. Moran's storytelling doesn't disappoint. It's time to put my faith in a very talented author and follow her on whatever journey she takes me.
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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Tue February 15th, 2011, 5:49 pm

Thanks for the review, Divia! I'll have to add Madam to my groaning TBR shelf.
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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Post by Alisha Marie Klapheke » Tue February 15th, 2011, 7:19 pm

I look forward to reading this book. It is in my enormous pile of to-reads!

Did you, Divia, enjoy the list of characters? I am considering putting one with my manuscript. It is difficult for me to tell whether or not it is necessary. How many characters necessitate a list?

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rockygirl
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Post by rockygirl » Tue February 15th, 2011, 8:28 pm

[quote=""Alisha Marie Klapheke""]I look forward to reading this book. It is in my enormous pile of to-reads!

Did you, Divia, enjoy the list of characters? I am considering putting one with my manuscript. It is difficult for me to tell whether or not it is necessary. How many characters necessitate a list?[/quote]

I know you asked Divia, but I always enjoy a list of characters in a book.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Tue February 15th, 2011, 10:45 pm

I liked the list of characters because there were so many in thie book so it helped me figure out who was who.
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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Post by Alisha Marie Klapheke » Thu February 17th, 2011, 3:18 am

Thanks. I think I'll get one together for my WIP. The only thing I don't like about character lists is that they can lead to spoilers. I read who is who and tend to guess what's going to happen, do you know what I mean?

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu February 17th, 2011, 10:58 am

Yeah, but I think most people have an understanding of the time period of the characters so they know whats going to happen. I mean I know the king and queen were gonna die.
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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Post by Alisha Marie Klapheke » Fri February 18th, 2011, 11:21 pm

True, Divia. Hope you have a good weekend.

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LoobyG
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Post by LoobyG » Sat March 12th, 2011, 1:43 pm

Having literally just finished 'Madame Tussaud' I would like to say that I agree whole heartedly with Divia's review. This book is excellent, and for me Michelle has again proved that she can spin a captivating story with a good historical background. I feel very inspired to visit Madame Tussaud in London now, I've never been! :)

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Julianne Douglas
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Post by Julianne Douglas » Mon June 13th, 2011, 9:32 pm

I just finished reading MADAME TUSSAUD and I loved it, too! Here's my review:

Oppression versus freedom. Extravagance versus want. Corruption versus altruism. It's easy, and tempting, to view revolution, especially eighteenth century revolution, in terms of these stark dichotomies. For individuals who lived through this tumultuous era, however, things were far from clear-cut. Ideas often clashed with the realities of circumstance; ignoble actions frequently compromised lofty ideals. As political and social thought evolved quickly over the course of days and weeks, individuals who set off on one path might suddenly wake to find themselves in a place they had never intended to be. Fear and uncertainty clouded moral judgment and complicated personal relationships; swept up in the turmoil, people found themselves having to make difficult choices between less than desirable alternatives. What history books now depict as a series of clear oppositions was, for the people of the time, a seething morass of buts, ands, and what ifs.

Marie Grosholtz, the protagonist of Michelle Moran's new novel MADAME TUSSAUD (Crown 2011), straddles the two worlds that collide in the bloody foment of the French revolution. Niece of Philippe Curtius, the Swiss showman who runs a popular wax-model attraction known as the Salon de Cire, Marie lives among laborers and entertainers on the Rue du Temple and listens to the fiery political debates of Marat, Camille Desmoulins, and Robespierre in her uncle's parlor. Yet, Marie is no stranger to the glittering world of the nobility. Engaged as wax tutor to the King's sister, she comes to have intimate knowledge of the muddled King, the extravagant but good-hearted Marie Antoinette and the kind and religious Elisabeth through her biweekly visits to the Princess's palace and the Princess's trusting friendship.

Marie's role as intermediary between the two worlds creates the conflict that makes Moran's novel a gripping, thought-provoking read. Each faction assumes Marie's complete loyalty. The revolutionaries depend on her to create scenes at the museum that not only chronicle the developing revolution but influence public opinion in favor of its radical philosophy. Unaware of Marie's ties to the opposition, Princess Elisabeth confides to her details of the royals' private lives and reactions to the unfolding events and trusts Marie to bring her news from the outside once she is placed under house arrest. Marie finds herself in an uncomfortable and dangerous position as the revolt against the monarchy turns violently ugly. To appear to support the royals in any capacity would place her family and livelihood in extreme danger, yet her growing dissatisfaction with the revolutionaries' tactics and her friendship with the princess cause her to question her complicity with her radical friends in the scenes and figures she creates. Ever the businesswoman, Marie juggles her two roles for as long as she can for the sake of the Salon, but ultimately she must choose between them. Moran masterfully manipulates Marie's inner tension, keeping the reader wondering how events will play out and what type of person Marie will become. To great effect, the author crystallizes the general societal crisis in Marie's personal turmoil, reminding the reader that individual conscience plays a pivotal role in determining the course of history.


In MADAME TUSSAUD, her fourth published novel, Moran moves effortlessly from ancient Egypt and classical Rome to the streets and salons of eighteenth century France. The world she evokes is a convincing one, filled with details of dress and custom and architecture that settle the reader comfortably in the historical milieu. The novel provides a fascinating look at the art of wax modeling, and, even more interesting, the role Curtius's Salon de Cire played in portraying and synthesizing political events for the masses in an era that predated photography and video. Moran does an admirable job of conveying the complicated history of the late eighteenth century in a clear and concise manner. She narrates the story in short chapters, each headed by a date and a contemporary quotation, a strategy that allows her to trim dead time from the narrative and linger as long as necessary on specific hours, days or weeks. However, it is Moran's characterizations that most strongly testify to her consummate skill as a novelist. Readers will long remember the shrewd yet open-minded Marie; her loyal yet practical lover Henri Charles; sheltered, faith-filled Princess Elisabeth; impish, resourceful Yachin; and damaged, power-hungry Robespierre. With her appreciation for ambiguity and ambivalence, Moran manages to humanize figures that, like Marie's wax, have hardened into stereotypes down through the centuries.

I highly recommend MADAME TUSSAUD as one of the best historical novels I have read this year. I'm thrilled Michelle has decided to visit France as a setting for her novels, and hope she will remain there for many books to come.
Julianne Douglas

Writing the Renaissance

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