Monday, June 6, 2011

Madame Tussaud, by Michelle Moran

This was one intense book.  I never knew much about the French Revolution, but several years ago I read a few books on Marie Antoinette.  I found that fascinating and this book was equally a page turner.

Madame Tussaud was a name I knew, but didn't know anything past that.  She was a famous show-woman who worked with wax.  Her specialty was creating real looking images of famous people.  She used her shop in France to report news on the happenings of the times, which happened to be when the people of France were revolting against their king and queen.

The bloodshed that happened during this period in history is unbelievable.  The author makes mention that about half a million people lost their lives for the cause of "liberty", or what some thought was liberty.  She said approximately 40,000 were guillotined.  Among these numbers were many women, children, people of the church - the innocent.  It's amazing the evil that can take hold of people if they let it, and people did in this historic time.  All of the major events and characters in this book were real.  The author's extensive research to put this together is simply exhausting for me to even think about! :)

Having read books about Marie Antoinette that were basically from her point of view on the events that took place around that time, it was nice to be on the other side, from the "commoner's" point of view.  Marie Tussaud was fortunate to escape death when she did.  It's amazing she survived as long as she did, trying to play both sides of the political fence.  She was a tutor to the king's sister, Elizabeth, while trying to support (or appear to support, to avoid imprisonment or death) the "patriots" seeking freedom from the monarchy.  She had to make death masks of people she cared for after they were beheaded, a job she never relished, as one can imagine.  She had to part with family either by choice or death for safety reasons and even parted with the one she loved due to her devotion to her work and family.  She married a man she met in prison, gaining her last name Tussaud, only to find he was an excessive gambler once they were free.  She had three children by him, two sons who survived, and after realizing her marriage wasn't going to work out, joined her first love to travel with her show. 

She has many wax museums around the world and is still famous today for her work.  The last figure she created before she died was one of herself. 

I love Moran's way of making what she writes seem so real, like she was there taking notes while these historic events were taking place.  This book was a little more disturbing to read because of the reality that was the French Revolution, but it was very informative and entertaining, nonetheless.  I do recommend reading it.  :)

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