Monday, 14 May 2012
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
Before I start this review properly, I have to admit that I knew next to nothing about the French Revolution before reading this book. I knew the French rose up and executed King Louis and Marie Antoinette using the newly invented guillotene but I couldn't have told you what the Third Estate was or how the population was encouraged to revolt. Madame Tussaud was a great way to fill in the gaps in my knowledge as Marie was acquainted with all of the important players on both sides. As learning about new times and places is one of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction, I loved this aspect of the book and could tell that Moran had really done her research.
The story was compelling too. I found the pace of the novel a bit slow at the beginning but once the Revoltuion got underway things moved at a whirlwind pace. Marie was an easy main character to identify with, she was hard working and devoted to her family but determined to find her own path in life. Her relationship with Henri worked to balance the grimness of other aspects of the story.
At times, I found Madame Tussaud to be very profound. Moran doesn't shy away from the horrors Robespierre inflicted after executing the King and she has a lot to say about human nature. At one point Marie compares the revolutionists to animals who, having destroyed their enemies, had nothing left to do but destroy themselves. I found it interesting to reflect on society and how easily all of our civilised veneer can be swept away or destroyed. I liked that Moran refrained from making any judgement on the events through Marie, she let actions speak for themselves. I also enjoyed the afterword that let me know what happened to all the famous characters in the novel.
That's not to say the book wasn't without flaws. I thought Henri was just too perfect to be real and therefore didn't buy the romance completely. The beginning section of the book could have been edited down to make it tighter. But all in all, Madame Tussaud is a competent, thoroughly research piece of historical fiction that's very enjoyable to read. Michelle Moran is going on my list of 'historical fiction authors to trust'.
First Published: February 2011
Score: 4 out of 5