Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

Author: Michelle Moran
Pages: 446
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Source: Review Copy- Thank you!!
Synopsis: 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 dream 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, Princesse Élisabeth, 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 cafés 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?

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

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I'd like to start off by saying that while Madame Tussaud is not a YA novel, it's a book that can appeal to many teens (like me). My experience with historical fiction is limited, but I do have to say that Madame Tussaud is now one of my favorites.

It starts with the writing- so easy to read and matter of fact. There's never a pointless scene as in every page you learn a bit more about Marie and her world, from the Salon de Circe to Rose Bertin. It's not hard to get engrossed in the story and I often almost missed my stop when I read this book on the bus. (Seriously, that happened at least three times before I decided to stop reading on the bus.)

The story itself is very interesting. Marie is a strong woman that I easily liked and related to. She's had a really hard life and her strength always shined through. I was shocked at some of the events that took place in this novel. It's about the French revolution- something I don't know much about but I found that I learned a lot later on.

While the historical aspect of the novel was really strong, I didn't feel like it took precedence over the story. There was a masterful blend of history and fiction that made the little jumps of time feel more natural. I wasn't offset by the jumps of times (sometimes entire months passed by between chapters). At the same time, I feel like I learned a lot about the French revolution.

One of my favorite parts of the book were little passages from the actual revolution at the beginning and during the chapter. I thought it added authenticity and it reminded the reader that most of the events taking place were more or less true. I also did think a little about the characters and their motivations later on, which is always good. The more a book sticks with me, the better it is.

I'm really happy to have read this book. I kind of like that the main character, Marie, was older and not prone to all the insecurities teens usually have. I found that refreshing. There isn't much content that isn't appropriate for teens, except maybe that a lot of the stuff that happens is horrible so this isn't a light, fun read. The best compliment I can give this book is that after finishing it, I immediately decided to read every other historical fiction the author, Michelle Moran, has written.

Overall I enjoyed this book. There were many elements of it I liked, from the characters to the world, but in the end I liked it because it's the unique story of a real, strong woman and I think it's a memorable read. 4.5 stars,

**** & 1/2 *

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