“Madame Tussaud” is set during a difficult and complicated time in French history when the population became more and more dissatisfied with the monarchy. While the subjects were hit with rising taxes and left starving and had little to call their own, the royals were spending foolishly and living high of the hog. The masses became so discouraged with the direction of the country, they reached a point where they did not trust or support anything King Louis XV1 and Queen Marie Antoinette did. This was a very volatile and dangerous time; France was on a downhill spiral and the ensuing events left its mark on history for ever.
The story is mainly of Marie Grosholtz, a talented artist who worked at her family wax museum sculpting figures that reflected events of the time: Paris late 1780’s. This was a very trying time for their profession and their Salon de Cire, in order to make a living and protect the family they had to walk a very fine line between two distinctive groups with opposing agendas. One group was the royalty with an endless supply of money and the other was represented by Robespierre and Marat, the two notorious revolutionary instigators whose propaganda speeches eventually bring the population to rise against the monarchy.
It didn’t take long for the situation to get out of hands. The ruling class retaliated by implementing the guillotine and went from town to town massacring all those in their way but eventually the people with their numbers overran the Bastille…. During this period, Marie was mandated to prepare the death masks of prominent people who were recently beheaded but soon became unable to do this gruesome task, there was no apparent end in sight. When she refused she was immediately sent to the gallows to wait for her turn at the guillotine….Fortunately that day never came and while in prison she meet and married Mr. Tussaud. It was a domed marriage, not many years after their release they each went their separate ways.
The novel begins as a sedate look at the wax museum and the events that brought the French monarchy to its knees, the details of the time and the part Marie Groshotlz played became so captivating I had trouble putting the book down. The devastation caused by the Revolution and number of beheadings and killings in search of social fairness was overwhelming. This is a fantastic historical fiction that takes us back in time and provides a fabulous perspective of a woman whose name and artistic endeavours are well-known even to this day. The author provides a brief description on what is fact and what is fiction at the end of the book.
Ms. Moran is highly skilled at making history interesting.