My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax sculpturess but who was the woman behind the museums?
I knew nothing about Madame Tussaud other than seeing the museum in the tackier part of Niagara Falls and knowing an old Christian pop song called Meltdown (at Madame Tussaud’s) that has been in my head for weeks because of this book.
Marie Grosholtz came to Paris from Switzerland as a child with her family. Her mother found work and eventually love with the owner of a wax museum. Marie learned her trade from him. The Salon de Cire was a popular attraction and they worked hard to keep it up to date with displays of the latest celebrities. Think of it as the tabloids of its day.
The family also hosted a popular evening salon that attracted some of the leading rebels and intellectuals of the day. Because of this the family bridged the gap of the French Revolution. Marie was a wax tutor to the Emperor’s sister and a friend of some of the leading rebels. Both sides considered her family as friends which kept them walking a tightrope. When the country is collapsing, which friends do you support? How do you decide who to feature in your museum when a wrong choice might cost you your life?
The book gets into the horrors of the French Revolution. Marie was forced to make make models from the heads of people executed to appease mobs that appeared at her door. She was in the middle as friends turned against friends in deadly ways.
I highly recommend this book for people interested in historical fiction, history of women, or French history.