Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Rating: 2 Stars ★★☆☆☆

When she walks through the door of my exhibition, everything disappears: the sound of the rain against the windows, the wax models, the customers, even the children.


Paris, 1788.

Marie is a young woman in love with her oldest friend and neighbour, Henri. But she is also a determined businesswoman, eager to see her family’s waxwork museum keep them safe and solvent. Her gift for modelling faces in wax brings her to Versailles, where she must teach the king’s sister her skill. But the coming revolution will place Marie, her family and all of Paris in grave danger. As the monarchy is overthrown and the guillotine becomes a fixture in French life, Marie is expected to show her patriotism by making death masks from the severed heads of every key figure killed as the Reign of Terror begins and France enters its darkest time. How will Marie survive the Revolution? Who will survive it with her? And just how will this girl come to be known as the woman behind one of the most famous museums in the world?


I’m disappointed by this book. It’s about a woman in the middle of the French Revolution. How can you make such an interesting time and such an interesting woman so utterly boring?

The main problem I had with the book was the sheer amount of infodumping going on. It’s incredible. We are rarely shown anything, we are always told. It’s as if the author crams a history lesson down our throats instead of a story.

He has an unnatural hatred of Queen Marie Antoinette. Like many others, he refers to her insultingly as The Austrian. He smiles at Camille, knowing the fish has already been caught. “Why do you think that each estate has been given only one vote? To make sure nothing changes! The clergy and the nobility will vote together to preserve the current system, while the Third Estate will be left out in the cold.”

“Despite the fact that the Third Estate makes up most of this nation!” Camille shouts.

“Ninety-five percent,” the Duc puts in.

The characters suffer because of this. They are used as mouthpieces for the history lesson more than actual characters with depth and feeling. For the most part, they remain very one-dimensional.

Robespierre is evil. Princess Elisabeth is religious. Marie’s brother is in love with the baron’s daughter. Madame Royal is a bitch. Even Marie Tussaud is mainly defined by her work. All these characters seem to get one major trait and that’s it for the rest of the book.

I also miss the ambivalence of revolution. Marie, here, is firmly on the royal’s side. They’re portrayed as gentle, naive and misunderstood. Just from reading this novel you’d never guess why on earth there was a revolution in the first place. There’s zero balance here.

I bow my head, humbled by the princesse’s request. There is no one in France with such a kind heart, and certainly her brother cannot be so different. The Duc d’Orléans must be a terrible man to whisper scandal about these people.

And all these tragedies of the Revolution have no emotional impact whatsoever because the characters didn’t come alive.


Too much infodumping, not enough character development makes this book meh in all regards.

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