Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution - Michelle Moran I'm currently in a phase where I'm on the lookout for some good historical fiction, and my interest was inevitably drawn to Michelle Moran and her books.

I could have picked up any of her previous novels about Nefertiti or Cleopatra Selene, but I knew I wanted to read Madame Tussaud the moment I first heard about it, due to my fascination with the character as a historical figure. Like most people, I am familiar with her wax museums around the world and have even had the opportunity to visit several of them. But until I read this book, I never knew the full scope of the role she played in the French Revolution.

I think Moran herself said it best in her author's note, which I'm paraphrasing here -- that sometimes it's not the kings and queens that make for the most interesting stories in history, but the people in the backdrop who just happen to be there in the right place at the right time. So true, especially in the case of this novel. As it turned out, Tussaud became a rather famous and accomplished woman herself, but it was still pretty incredible to discover Marie Grosholtz's life before she became THE Madame Tussaud, especially in light of her involvement on both sides of the revolution, and of her relationships with various important figures in history like Robespierre, Marat, the Duc D'Orleans etc.

For a relatively new novelist, Moran is already making a name for herself in the world of historical fiction and after reading this book, I can see why. She must do tons of research for each novel, because I can tell she strives to be historically accurate whenever possible. And what she does is take historical facts and breathes life into them, and in this book all her characters and even the French Revolution itself take on personalities of their own. She has a tendency to insert little historical "gems" here and there which I like because they are interesting, but which I also dislike sometimes because I feel they do nothing but distract from a scene. For the most part, however, I thought she struck a good balance between the historical and the fictional elements when telling this story.

One thing I felt that was awkward but got better as the novel progressed was how aloof the main character felt to me as she narrated. This might have something to do with the way the author wished to convey the nuances of the French language or the nature of the times. Or it might even be due to the fact it was told from the first person point of view in the present tense, leading to a lot of "telling" rather "showing" when it came to the narration. Regardless, Marie and other characters felt very distant to me in the first few chapters, and even later on in the book in scenes involving her romance with Henri. But like I said, this gets better later on, almost like the author finds her stride and finally decides on what kind of person she wants Marie to be. By the end of the novel, the aloofness I sensed had all but disappeared.