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The terror of the French Revolution ...,
This review is from: Madame Tussaud (Paperback)"Madame Tussaud" is a mostly well-written work of historical fiction, and I have no doubt that it was also meticulously researched. Still, it took me well over 100 pages to really get into this book --- the beginning read a little like a dry history textbook --- but somewhere around page 150 the story finally started to grip me and I found myself turning page after page to find out what would happen next.
I must confess that I did not know all that much about the politics of the French Revolution beyond the basics --- people starving, fall of the bastille, angry peasants, king and queen beheaded --- before I started reading this book! I've read a handful of novels which used the French Revolution as a backdrop but none of them went into as much detail as Ms. Moran's book did. I've also seen Sophia Coppola's movie "Marie Antoinette" which I loved and thought was very well done ... even though it doesn't really tell you much about the Revolution --- it's really more a character study of Marie Antoinette.
Anyway, having finished "Madame Tussaud" I now feel almost like an expert on the subject ... ;o) ... That is to say, the book is very political and the writing is very detailed as far as the reasons for and events during the French Revolution are concerned. It did at times feel a little like a really long lecture by a history professor but apart from the first 130 pages or so I didn't really mind. That is probably because the writing became much more vivid and riveting as the story progressed.
The characters were definitely well-crafted and I felt that I got to know them quite well over the course of the book. I only ever knew "Madame Tussaud" as the person after whom the wax cabinet in London was named --- I can't say that I gave much thought to the real person behind that name. It was surprising to me that Marie Grosholtz (= Madame Tussaud) played such a big (if unwilling) part in the French Revolution.
Ms. Moran did a really good job at conveying the sheer terror of those days when no one was safe from the hysteria and the angry mobs. People were condemned or killed based on rumors --- no questions asked. No one knew whom to trust or how to act because for a long time it wasn't clear who would win this "battle for France" --- the revolutionaries or the royalists. The tension and indecision that comes with such uncertainty was definitely well-portrayed in this novel.
One thing that did bother me a little was the so-called romance between Marie and Henri. I liked both characters but their was just absolutely no spark between them. I guess one could say there was nothing romantic about their romance ...! It was clear that Henri was in love with Marie, but apart from a few mentions of "her heart beating faster" there was nothing to show that Marie might feel the same way about him. In short --- their romance did not ring true for me at all ...
Overall, this was an enjoyable read and definitely much better than Christine Trent's "The Queen's Dollmaker" which has a very similar setting. The story started off a little slow and dry but improved the further I read. So if you've just started reading this book and find that you are struggling then don't give up rightaway --- it *will* get better ... ;o)