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Monday, July 25, 2016

Adult Review: Madame Tussaud

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Published: February 15th, 2011 by Crown Publishing Group which the acknowledgements says is a division of Random House.
Genre: Adult historical fiction.
Binding: A giant, really heavy hardcover.
Page Count: 448 when you include all the extras, 426 of strict story.
Part of a series? No, it is a standalone.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration by the author... in 2011. I'm sorry! I really do enjoy these books! I'm getting better; I really am. Soon we will get out of 2011!
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (a rather long one from goodreads): Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American Ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, and when word arrives that the royals themselves are coming to see their likenesses, Marie never dreams that the king’s sister will request her presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. Yet when a letter with a gold seal is delivered to her home, Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.

As Marie becomes acquainted with her pupil, Princess √Člisabeth, she is taken to meet both Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen, to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into to a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and caf√©s across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution…Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more importantly, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Review: This was really good! Now, I know very little about history, so I can't really judge how accurate things are, but I came out of this feeling like I understood a little more about the historical events that happened in the book. I think that's a good sign in historical fiction, and I think that really helps people like me who aren't really experienced in the genre. I went in knowing almost nothing about Marie Tussaud besides, you know, she's got a thing with wax, and Moran did not confuse me, or make me feel like I wasn't capable of following the events of the book. She has a wonderful knack for bringing the characters to life, and her descriptions are amazing. Picturing how things look is so easy, and I'm not a hugely visual person.

I'm very impressed.

Plot Talk: French Revolution. Wax museum. Do I really need to say more?

But I will talk about the pacing, because it's kind of interesting. Three months or so pass over the course of about 200 pages. Then the other half of the book covers five years. It really works well, because you get time to understand the setting, and what the consequences really are. There's still a lot going on, but those things work to make you care about the characters, and care about what happens.

Characters: Speaking of, the characters are really good. They're obviously real historical figures, and their depictions show how much the author genuinely enjoys the history. There's real care put into them. Marie herself is a fascinating woman, and I very much enjoyed spending a book with her. She's smart, talented, and incredibly strong.

Moran has a real knack for writing wonderful characters. I especially appreciated the sympathetic portrayal of Marie Antoinette. It feels much more honest somehow.

PG-13 stuff: I mean, this is an adult novel that covers the French Revolution. There's bloody stuff and gory stuff and violence. There's definitely some disturbing things. People die, and it's not really shied away from. I didn't find it too much to handle, but sensitive readers may want to be careful. Not much for language besides, like, the occasional French stuff, and no graphic sex.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: Pet peeve - Marie mentions "knowing" sex would hurt at first, and there's a mention of doctors examining a corpse for proof of virginity and finding it. I know in the 18th century that was kind of the general idea, but like... definitely a pet peeve. Hymens just don't really work like that. I'm not going to rant. I'm just going to link a ScarletTeen article (and also this Smart Bitches Trashy Books article because it's funny).

Cover comments: I think this is an absolutely striking cover, and I really like it. I also really like one of the covers from another edition. (Click to enlarge.) The perfect cover, I think, would be a combination of the two. On the yellow cover, I really like the model. Not to say she isn't beautiful, but the expression on her face especially strikes me as fitting the character. While the right cover has something out of the book (the dress, the mask, the tri-colour flag thingie), I think the model is too young - Marie is twenty-eight to thirty-two or so - and too pretty. Marie describes herself as not pretty.

I did see a portrait of her, and I think she was interesting to look at, but not pretty in the delicate waif way. For me, the yellow cover's model demands your attention and your respect. And I think the red cover gears more historical romance - the love story isn't the main element of the book the way the logline on the cover seems to point towards it being. So, a combination of these two would probably be the perfect cover for me.

But they're both good! I'm just rambling too much because I'm overtired and need to go to bed.

Conclusion: This was a great way to spend a few hours! I'm really glad I finally got around to reading it, and I would gladly read more from Michelle Moran. This is a really fun way for me to expand my reading horizons some, and I definitely recommend it. Solid four out of five stars.

Other notes:

- I wish I had gotten this up last week for the French holiday that was like, in this!

- I kept picturing the Hamilton cast whenever, like, Lafayette came up. Kind of enjoyable, actually.

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Peace and cookies,

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