Wow, I was really impressed with this book! I ordered it as a bit of research in my own French Revolution historical fiction I’m about to start writing. I didn’t expect to be enthralled with it, but I was! It was hard to put it down and then I was thinking about Marie when I wasn’t reading. She had such an interesting and unique and terrible life during the revolution and a bit after. The story follows Marie Grosholtz, a German descendant living in Paris with her family. It starts just before the French Revolution begins so we can get a good idea of what life was like for this young wax sculptor before chaos consumed her life. At first we see her career taking off upward and then the horrors that come from that success as the Revolution falls under Robspierre’s “Reign of Terror”. It gave me a new sympathy for the nobility of Paris, and for King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I’d always had a skewed view of these royals who lived so long ago and I feel this piece of historical fiction opened my eyes to a wider view of reality. For someone who always thought the French Revolution was a good event that brought about great changes and saw “the reign of terror” as only words, it really brought to life the horrors of those years. It was so disturbing the blood that was shed to get rid of the monarchy and try to create equality. Unbelievable.
The author did a great job of incorporating the French language, but not in a way that ever felt confusing. She blended historical facts and figures with fiction perfectly. She’s an inspiration for me! Since I am working on my own historical fiction during the French Revolution, I took so many looks and paused my reading so many times to confirm things from the book. I cannot remember a time when I dug further into Moran’s research to find something wrong or untrue. In the back of the book she is transparent and explains to the readers the times she changed timelines for the benefit of the story and other various things like that. I was surprised by how little she changed!
The book was entertaining and shocking. Some of the descriptions of the deaths by guillotine made my stomach churn and my heart ache for people who have been gone for hundreds of years. So cruel and unfair that time in history was. There was romance in the story, but it never felt like the main focus or purpose of the story, which was refreshing for a historical fiction featuring a female lead. Gives me something to think about with my own story, for sure!
Marie was a very likable and strong-minded female character. Even though it took place two hundred and thirty years ago, she struggled with problems in life that we today still struggle with, though during that time it was revolutionary itself that she struggled with them. She was a woman who was so engrossed in her career and worked so hard to make it a success that when she fell in love she worried marriage would derail her business. Seems like a modern problem for women, but this bit made her very close to us.
Thanks to this book I think I will have to make a trip to one of the several Madame Tussaud Wax museums! One needs to open in Chicago next!
I definitely recommend this book to any historical fiction fan!