Book Review: Madame Tussaud – A Novel of the French Revolution


Marie Grosholtz is a wax sculptor working in her family’s salon in Paris. After a visit to the salon from King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, Marie is asked to teach the art of wax modeling to Madame Elizabeth, the sister of the King. Travelling weekly between working-class Paris and the royal palaces at Versailles, Marie is privy to some of the secrets of the royal family and cleverly learns to play both sides.

The Grosholtz home is regularly visited by men who will be instrumental in beginning the French Revolution such as the Duc d’Orleans and Maximilien Robespierre. As the citizens in Paris rebel and frustration with the royal family and the French government leads to anarchy, Marie is imprisoned and asked to make death masks of guillotine victims – an offer she can’t refuse. While imprisoned she meets her future husband Francoise Tussaud.

Told in Marie’s voice, this even-paced, plot-driven novel will take the reader from the days preceding the French Revolution through the Reign of Terror. Marie’s sympathy toward the royal family makes for an interesting point of view. Many famous historical figures such as Jean-Paul Marat and the Marquis de Sade appear in the novel, and endnotes let the reader know what happened to the novel’s major characters after the Revolution.

This novel received Library Journal’s Award for Best Historical Fiction 2011. Other titles by Michelle Moran include Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra’s Daughter. Read-alikes for Madame Tussaud are: The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson and The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland.


Nancy Wiseman
Readers’ Advisory Librarian

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