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?