Synopses & Reviews
The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away
from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.
As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse Élisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.
Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?
Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
MICHELLE MORAN was a public high school teacher for six years and is currently a full-time writer living in California. She is the author of the national bestseller Nefertiti
, The Heretic Queen
, and Cleopatra's Daughter
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. How do you think Marie’s life differed from most other women of her time? Where would you say she placed her emphasis?
2. When Marie visited the Marquis de Sade in the Bastille, she was surprised by the conditions she found there. Were you surprised as well? If so, in what way did those conditions surpass or fall short of your expectations?
3. What was the comparison Marie made between the Bastille and Versailles? How would you describe the organization, operations, scent and reality of daily life in each location?
4. Who was the Duc D’Orleans and what type of role would you say he played regarding the French revolution? What role would you say he played in the common people’s belief regarding the king?
5. When the Royal family tried to economize their personal lifestyle and the kingdom’s expenses, how did the other nobles respond and why?
6. At one point, Marie told her neighbor, and later fiancé, Henri, she didn’t agree with Rousseau’s philosophy regarding the goodness of man. In what way would you say Marie’s philosophy regarding people differed from Rousseau?
7. How would you describe the Royal family’s knowledge of the way the populace felt about them? Why was this so? What role do you think this knowledge, or lack thereof, played as a catalyst for the revolution?
8. How would you describe the king’s style of ruling? What factor do you think this played in the people revolting against him? If he’d been a harsher ruler do you think the people would have been more or less likely to revolt and why? By the same token, if he had been a more lenient ruler do you think this would have increased or diminished the likelihood of the revolution?
9. hat do you think was the king’s greatest virtue as a ruler? What was his greatest vice? Which characteristic of his do you think played the greatest role in his ultimately losing his throne and his life?
10. What events in Madame Tussaud would you describe as ironic? Can you think of similar things or events that have occurred during your lifetime, whether in this country or elsewhere? If so, how are they similar?
11. Marie’s brother, Edmund, accused Marie of making matters worse for the Royal family by portraying them through her wax figures in a misleading or lurid way. Do you agree? How did the Salon De Cire’s exhibits mirror or differ from the way the French newspapers described the Royal family?
12. Would you describe Marie as a Royalist or a revolutionary? Why? If she’d had the ability to do so, at the end of her life what specific things do you think she would have gone back and rectified or done differently?