I feel like a wreck today because I stayed up late last night reading Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud which I picked up from the library. Oh my gosh! I had no idea it was going to be so good!!!
I’ve studied European history, been to France, and read other fictional and nonfictional accounts of the French Revolution, but I’ve never felt like I had such a clear grasp of the timeline and major players of Reign of Terror until now. I wouldn’t say that Michelle Moran has made learning about the French Revolution fun, because that sounds horrible, but she has my attention hooked and I can’t wait to finish the last 100 pages.
Madame Tussaud was friends with people like Maximilien Robespierre, the Duc d’Orleans, Jean-Paul Marat, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Jacques-Louis David. She was also a wax tutor to Princesse Elisabeth, sister of King Louis XVI. This meant that she traveled in both circles, and somehow survived. She was known for being able to look at a face and make remarkable wax models of all of the famous people of her time.
After the French Revolution, she traveled around England for 30 years before establishing her museum on Baker Street. It must have been especially horrible for the English aristocracy who paid to see her exhibit, because they would have personally known many of the executed aristocrats she had portrayed in her collection.
I’ve had the opportunity to go to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in various cities that I have visited, but never chose to go because I have zero interest in seeing wax models of famous celebrities. But after reading this book, I’m really kicking myself. I did not know that these museums also contain historical figures, some of which Madame Tussaud herself created off the actual corpses. There is also a figure called Sleeping Beauty that was a replica of Madame du Barry.
I think this book could definitely help a highschooler prepare for the AP European history test, because it so clearly explains the issues and major events of the French Revolution. But parents would need to use their own judgment as to whether or not they considered it acceptable reading for teenagers. There is a scene for example, where Marie goes to the Bastille and meets the Marquis de Sade. Nothing bad happens to her of course, but it does explain the horrible reasons he is there.
On Moran’s website it says that Madame Tussaud is going to be made into a mini-series on Showtime. Here’s hoping they don’t ruin it!