Michelle Moran has written a string of very successful historical fiction works based on the lives of famous women. Her books include Nefertiti (Crown, 2007); The Heretic Queen (Crown, 2008) about Nefertari, the niece of Nefertiti ; and Cleopatra’s Daughter (Crown, 2009), about the children of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.
Her new novel centers on Madame Tussaud, who lived through the French Revolution and had a unique relationship with the royal family of the time.
I got curious, and started looking around. I could not find any other fictional versions of her life, though there are two recent nonfiction accounts. But I did learn that Madame Tussaud’s memoirs were published in 1838 (in English), and are available in full on Google Books.
Adult/High School– Madame Tussaud? The wax museum lady? Yes, indeed! This remarkable novel enters the life of Madame Tussaud in 1788, when she is still Marie Grosholtz, still in her twenties, still earnestly producing wax figures for display in her family’s Paris Salon de Cire. At the time, such waxwork displays were a way for people to “see” famous people and receive news of current events, much in the way of our evening news. The Salon de Cire also hosts gatherings that attract radical thinkers such as Maximilien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, and Jean-Paul Marat. When Marie is asked to tutor the king’s sister in the art of wax working, she hardly imagines that she will discover that the greatest fault of the much-maligned royal family is their hapless naïveté. As events run their horrifying course, Marie is forced to witness heroism and folly on both sides of the revolution. This is an excellent literary opportunity for teens. It provides an enhanced look at the French Revolution and the important ways in which it differs from the American Revolution. The French Revolution may be familiar to teens because of assigned readings such as Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities. And Moran explores themes of power and corruption illustrated by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, another oft-assigned novel. In addition, teens who have read Jennifer Donnelly’s entrancing novel, Revolution (Delacorte, 2010), will find here a more complete look at this dark chapter in world history.–Diane Colson, New Port Richey Library, FL