Madame Tussaud

Do you ever find that what you read feeds into one another? That something you read a few months ago subconsciously creates a new interest and you start reading related material unintentionally? For instance, I’ve never really read very much about the French Revolution. I’ve read a Marie Antoinette biography (the one by Antonia Fraser – it is terrific) and I get what happened but details, not so much. Then suddenly I got the urge to read A Tale of Two Cities and followed that up with Madame Tussaud. A few months ago I read Catherine the Great’s biography and she sort of makes an appearance in Madame Tussad , so…related.

Does this ever happen to you?

I love when it happens.

This brings me to my latest read. In a very roundabout way, but here we are.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Don’t hate me, but I initially dismissed it because of the cover. I know – breaking one of reading’s top commandments: Thou Shalt not judge a book by its cover. But we all do it, and here we are.

For the record, I’ve done the reverse as well. I’ve been seduced by a brilliant cover to find the inside lacking. But it seems much more heinous when you dismiss a great book because the cover art doesn’t do it for you, doesn’t it?

Anyway, Madame Tussaud is excellent. I loved it. Michelle Moran does not mince words. She writes about the brutality and the uncertainty of the French Revolution in no uncertain terms. The cruelty of the guillotine, the Swiss Guard massacre, the spite with which the people treated the royal family and the mercilessness they showed when it came to rooting out anyone that might have ever had anything to do with them are all portrayed honestly in the book.

Madame Tussaud tells the story of the real Madame Tussaud, formerly Anna Maria Grosholtz, the wax sculptor who used her talents to tell the stories of the day. Her tableaus of the wealthy and eventually those political figures that were changing the face of France, attracted thousands of people. Her salon de cire was the only chance that many of these people could ever hope to catch a glimpse of those people featured in the exhibit.

But she paid a price for her success. Madame Tussaud  also explores the romantic relationship that Marie has with her neighbor and fellow exhibitor Henri Charles.

Personally the romantic storyline was secondary for me. The role that Marie played in the politics of the day meant that, as a reader, I got a front row seat to the drama that unfolded. And it was hard to read sometimes, heartbreaking, vicious, and bloody as the tale can be.

I ended up feeling real affinity for this woman whose ambition ruled her throughout one of the most terrifying epochs in our human history. She’s one of those characters that I’m sad to let go of.

If you see it, try not to judge it by its cover. The inside is a real treat. I find myself eagerly anticipating Moran’s next book, The Second Empress, which is due to be released August 14th. Also, if you’ve visited Michelle Moran’s website you will see that Madame Tussaud has been optioned as a Showtime miniseries, which is seriously exciting news.

Yup, I’m a dork. What are you gonna do?


Dickens And Me

Charles Dickens and I have a tenuous relationship. He’s Dickens so I want to worship at his feet as this giant of English Literature. But then I’ve been forced to read some of his work and it’s left me feeling…relieved to have gotten through it.

I’m thinking mostly of Hard Times. Hard Times really left a sour taste in my mouth.

But I did enjoy Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol always gives me goosebumps. I really just haven’t read enough Dickens to decide. But then I think aboutHard Times and I just can’t seem to move past it.

I think that Dickens and I might have gotten through our rough patch and are now on firm footing as best friends.


A Tale of Two Cities. *Sigh* Dickens made me cry. Tears. It was so beautiful.

But that was the reward. I was confused for easily the first third of the book. Dickens was into some serious foundation laying and the edition that I had didn’t have those lovely clarifying notes about the time, the customs and the terminology. (I love those notes! Am I alone in this? They are so helpful!)

My inner snob plowed on though. She was all “Its Dickens! You are supposed to enjoy it!”

And I did! I really did! It was wonderful and unexpected and beautiful.

For those of you that have not had the pleasure of A Tale of Two Cities – I really don’t want to give too much away. I’m sure that you can Google it and find out the major plots in about 7 seconds but it would ruin it. And I can’t be a party to that.

Let’s just say that there were tears and although I cry at the drop of a hat at the movies, there are few books that have this power (probably because I read a lot in public and nothing says “crazy” like hysterics on transit). It wasn’t quite Bethdying level of tears but definitely tissue worthy.

So if you haven’t already, add A Tale of Two Cities to your Must Read list. It will change the way you look at Charles Dickens. Unless you already love him and then it will just solidify things.