Born in 1761, the heroine of Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, Marie Grosholtz (later Tussaud), was smart and ambitious, and managed to make a name for herself at a time when most women were mere shadows of their husbands. Together with Dr. Curtius, whom she regarded as a father, Marie ran a successful wax museum, Salon de Cire, on Paris’ Boulevard du Temple. Her talent for sculpting brought the likes of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette through the Salon’s doors, but it was also the stomping ground for men likes Robespierre and Marat who came to discuss the impending Revolution.
As the French Revolution erupted around them, the family managed to use the political developments to keep customers coming and to keep food on their table. As a wax tutor to the king’s sister, Elisabeth, Marie sympathized with the plight of the royals and had to walk the fine line between royalists and revolutionists; openly voicing her opinions were dangerous, if not deadly. As word of her talent spread, Marie even had to prove her “patriotism” by making wax heads of the famous victims of the guillotine – many of them friends.
Madame Tussaud is a departure for Moran – her previous novels were based in ancient Egypt or Rome – and it’s absolutely spectacular! I was instantly immersed in the constantly changing characters and events and felt the sweeping tide of the Revolution that overtook France. Moran managed to get across the facts and the feeling of the time without getting bogged down in unnecessary details. More importantly, in Marie, she chose a strong and inspiring heroine, and one that many women will cheer for. Marie struggled between her desire for professional success and the society’s expectations for her to settle down and have children – and these struggles still ring very true today.
Hundreds of years later, historical figures like Marie Antoinette continue to fascinate us, but Marie Tussaud, a commoner, is equally immortal through her legacy of Madame Tussauds wax museums around the world.
Madame Tussaud has also recently been optioned for a miniseries with Michael Hirst (who wrote The Tudors for Showtime) writing the script, and I cannot wait to experience this amazing book on the screen.
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Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Broadway. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.