Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Henri Charles, Thomas Jefferson, Maximilien Robespierre, Marquis de Lafayette, Camille Desmoulins, and of course, Marie Grosholtz, later known as Madame Tussaud.  It is December, 1788 and there is increased tension in Paris with the monarchy and King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; the beginning of what becomes the French Revolution and ends with the Reign of Terror.

The book is written from the perspective of Marie Grosholtz (Madame Tussaud) and all that she sees and faces throughout the revolution, including the politics and changes within France.  It is a political landmine as she has to balance building and maintaining her family’s business as a wax sculptor and running the Salon de Cire.  At the same time, she is being asked to tutor the King’s sister, the Princess Elizabeth, in the art of the wax sculpting.  While her position as tutor is at first an honor, with the increased tension and ultimate fall of the monarchy, she has to also demonstrate her commitment to being a patriot and supporting the revolution.  Throughout the book, Marie is constantly tested in ways she can show her support, including creating wax models of fallen individuals from the different actions that were taken.

Full of details and key points in the history of the French Revolution, this book provides a perspective on what it was like for the Royal family and also as a citizen of France and having to keep on your toes with who was currently “leading” the Revolution, who you needed as allies, being careful of your previous associations (for fear of being viewed as a Royalist), and always watching your back. It is a time period in history that resulted in many deaths (along with the introduction of the guillotine), and an upheaval of a city.  The author also highlights other key people and moments in history and science, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the launching of a hydrogen balloon, and the inception of Charles’ Law (the law of volumes).  I really enjoyed this book and learning more about the French Revolution, along with learning about how Madame Tussaud built her business.

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