From Versailles to Boulevard du Temple, royalists to revolutionaries, art to science, Moran (Cleopatra’s Daughter) returns with a new historical novel of fierce polarities. Set during the French Revolution, with an emphasis on the Reign of Terror, Moran’s fourth deftly chronicles the consequences of seeking reversals in power-or liberty. Marie Grosholtz, the talented wax sculptress who would become Madame Tussaud, narrates with verve. She and her family are “survivalists” who “straddle both worlds until it’s clear which side will be the victor…” but never come across as opportunists; they are resourceful, sympathetic individuals facing an unraveling nation and an increasingly angry mob mentality. Though readers may wince at the inevitable beheadings, the storming of the Bastille, and the actions of men like Robespierre, Moran tempers brutality with Marie’s romance and passion for artistry; quiet moments in the family’s atelier provide much needed respite. This is an unusually moving portrayal of families in distress, both common and noble. Marie Antoinette in particular becomes a surprisingly dimensional figure rather than the fashionplate, spendthrift caricature depicted in the pamphlets of her times. A feat for Francophiles and adventurers alike.
This was one of the best historic novels I’ve read in a long time! I still remember visiting Madame Tussauds Wax museum in London about 10 years ago and how in awe I was of all the wax figures. But I never knew much about Madame Tussaud herself so this was such a fabulous and intriguing book to read. I probably never picked a book about the French revolution if it wasn’t for the story of Madame Tussaud and I’m so glad I did.
This book gave a whole new perspective on the royal family and I loved Moran’s writing style. I think it was more fun to read this book because of my visit to Versailles many years ago and it made me want to go back and see the palace, the garden and all the furnitures and portraits of the royal family all over again.
Some parts of the book had very vivid descriptions on human cruelty and brutality and it’s a wonder that I didn’t have more nightmares! However, it did indeed convey the message of how people (especially, hungry and angry ones) can be easily blinded by lies and do unthinkable and horrible things to other human beings. Violence indeed brings more violence and hardly solve anything….