Book Review: Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Madame Tussaud by Michelle MoranMadame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
Published by Random House LLC on 2011-02-15
Genres: Biographical, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin. Smart and ambitious, 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, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time awayfrom her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles. As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse Élisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, 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 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 cafés 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 important, 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? Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.From the Hardcover edition.

I love it when a book leaves me thinking long after I have read it. I’m the type that flippantly reads books and trots on to the next one without sparing a thought except for the review. However, come to think of it, maybe I read historical fiction a bit differently, being a history nerd and all. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran takes place during one of my favorite periods of history to read about, The French Revolution. It’s a fictionalization of Marie Tussaud’s life during the French Revolution. Pretty much, all the elements were there to make me fall in love with it, all it needed was more to hear the people sing and I would’ve added it to my non-existent best books EVER list.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran captures the explosive emotions of the side. Marie Tussaud, a strong woman, plays both sides of the fence. With the Salon de Cire, Tussaud and her uncle create waxworks of famous figures, depending on the political climate. When the royalty are popular, the Salon features waxworks of Marie Antoinette and the royal family.  When they fall from grace, the salon features waxworks of political figures who represent freedom and equality such as Lafayette. Now, the Salon plays a huge role in Paris. People come to the Salon to get news, because they can’t read  the newspaper, and the Salon is a visual representation of the news. Now, Curtius, Marie’s uncle entertains his own salon and among his social circle is Robespierre, Marat, and Desmoulins. So, some key players in the French Revolution. As a reader, I loved watching the revolution play out from arguments in the salon to a reign of terror with Robespierre at the helm.

Anyways, it’s a volatile time, and Marie has to live it. I mean, holy crow, she goes through SO MUCH. I thought Moran did an excellent job bringing Marie to life. I felt like she was a real person and not just that lady all those museums are named for. The reactions and emotions Tussaud experienced seem very real to me. There’s a definite fear there about what is going on, but Tussaud has to play it cool, because sudden moves around Robespierre usually leads to one’s head being chopped off. PLUS PLUS PLUS she is very hardworking and has this awesome work ethic. Like, she models these busts very quickly and turns down social calls and dates and such.

And sigh, there are moments in the book that are so TRAGIC, like, capslocking tragic. I mean, I get the sense that during some of the historical fiction books I read, the characters and their families and friends, just seem to coast right through, and like the only characters that die are characters that are introduced for that express purpose. Now, I know I am generalizing and not every book is like that at all. Actually, probably few books are like that. ANYWAYS, people DIE and it is SAD.

Finally, this was another one of those books where I had to go online to verify some things and got mad when I couldn’t find them. Like I wanted to know what happened to this guy, Henri, but it never said. 🙁 Also, when I go to BEA I plan on visiting Madame Tussaud’s with one of my friends from college, mainly because of Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran.

Other Reviews:

The Lost Entwife

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Strange And Random Happenstance

Purchase Madame Tussaud here.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I can’t wait to read this one! I’m definitely not a huge history buff, but I love when a historical novel can really transport you back to that time, as this one seems to.

    Great review!

  2. Good to hear Madame Tussaud is awesome! I love me some historical fiction. *adds to wishlist*

  3. Great review! I’m really looking forward to this one. Moran seems to have gotten this historical fiction thing down pat. I normally don’t even pick up Adult hist fiction but her books have me excited.

  4. I am definitely a huge fan of historical fiction, especially when it leaves you reeling days after finishing it. When I hear a book did this to someone I immediately want to read it – Madame Tussaud falls into this category for sure. Fantastic review April!

  5. I know what you mean about not often pausing between books. I like to always be in the middle of something.

    I hadn’t considered reading this too seriously before, but now I’m definitely going to rethink that.

  6. I won this book in a contest and can’t wait to read it! I’m a total sucker for books set during the French Revolution.

  7. What a passionate review! I’m not a history nerd but it makes me want to pick it up! I didn’t realize that was the purpose of the Salons back then – to bring news! Learn something new everyday. New word of the day thanks to you is “capslocking” as a modifier! Love it!

  8. Loved this book. The writing was so straight-forward and blunt, but full of subtle emotion. Great review!

  9. I want to read this one so much! Thank you for the thoughtful review.

  10. I just recently added this one to my wishlist…after reading your review, I’m glad that I did 😉 I love the historical fiction that is true to life as well…let’s face it, folks were darn lucky to live to old age during war and treason and before antibiotics. Great review!

  11. This was great! I have passed it on to my mom who says that she can hardly put it down.

  12. This is one that as certainly gotten a lot of good feedback. Maybe someday in the future for me. Nice review.

  13. Lovely review my darling. I finished and loved this gory book as well as the historical points of the era.

    I’m creating my review now and am linking up your review to mind. If you would like me to take your link off please let me know.

    Mad Scientist


  1. Madame Tussaud | Mary's Gate says:

    […] you would like a second opinion I found this review, […]

  2. […] became the empress of France. While The Second Empress is not quite on par with Moran’s Madame Tussaud, it is still a compelling read about an interesting era of French […]