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and life along the winding road

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Today is Bastille Day a pivotal point in the French Revolution.

As most of you know, I'm not overly fond of novels written in present tense, but despite that, this was a good read.

Madame Tussaud A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran follows the family who made their living sculpting wax models and opening them as part of an exhibition. Madam Tussaud gives us a look at how this family struggled during the turbulent times of the French Revolution. Including gruesome requests to visit a graveyard and sculpt heads of those killed during the revolution. You can read how Ms. Moran came to write about this particular family here.
Before the revolution, the country consisted of Three Estates. The clergy and church; nobility and royal family; and the commoners who were the third estate. Only the commoners were required to pay taxes, which according to the novel was a third of their income.
Another cause for dissension was the lettres de cachet. These were letters that the King of France countersigned. The letters were requests for imprisonment without trial. Daughters could be imprisoned for refusing marriage, sons imprisoned for bad behavior, husbands imprisoned spouses for vengeance or jealousy. The king rarely read these letters before he countersigned them.
At 440 pages, this novel is longer than ones I usually choose and I must admit I did skip over a few pages, but it is an interesting look at the way the French Revolution came about and how people survived during it. (The Tussaud family straddled both sides of the fence).

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