On the Backlist: Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran


I know what you’re thinking. Campy wax museums–right? Boardwalks full of tourist attractions and cheesy photographs and wax representations of Brangelina and Elvis. That’s Madame Tussaud.


Madame Tussaud shocked the pants off me, which makes it a perfect example of why I love good historical fiction. I had absolutely no idea that

a) she was an actual, historical figure, and
b) she was a pivotal player in the French Revolution.

Michelle Moran writes historical fiction that’s vivid, gripping, and visceral. This is a period of time and a place I really knew little about, if we discount what I’d learned from listening to Jean Valjean sing. (Ask me, sometime, about when I babysat my nephew so my brother- and sister-in-law could go see the Bastille! Hahaha!) Moran has an impressive ability to make history come to life–I honestly felt as if I were living right inside 18th century France, with its terrors and complexities, and the entire thing was astoundingly fascinating. It’s Moran’s characters, though, and the way she weaves historical fact and knowledge about real people into her novel, that are most impressive. These are real people brought to life, and in far better and more realistic a manner than any wax representation I have ever seen.

As for the wax figures themselves, they have a rich history, and it would seem they’ve fallen from their artistic and political origins, a bit. It’s hard to explain what I mean without giving away the plot, but I will say that Tussaud, herself, was the original wax artist, and it seems she was exceptionally gifted in the visual arts. She was also introduced at the French court, and during the time of the revolution found herself caught between two worlds. Her story is one of extreme bravery. I would never have guessed the campy museums of today were named after such a woman, and I have far greater respect and admiration for her, now. Many thanks to Michelle Moran for introducing me to her, and for writing such an enjoyable novel.

Some violence–this is a novel about a revolution. Otherwise clean. 5 highly recommended stars!

5 Stars

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