I really did.
Remember how I said in this post that I was 99% sure Michelle Moran would handle writing a book on the French Revolution with ease? Well, I must have had a premonition to leave out that remaining 1%, because unfortunately, this read did not live up to expectation.
I have been following Moran’s blog since she first began researching Madame Tussaud as a novel, but back then it was just sketchy details, and I doubt she had thought of writing the book from Madame Tussaud’s perspective at that point. But whichever point it was that Michelle Moran decided to be revolutionary herself, and write the book from a new, fresh perspective – I wish she’d thought it through a bit further. What became clear to me reading a third of this book (I drifted off finally at page 157 after several attempts to read through to the end) is that there is a reason authors haven’t naturally caught on to Madame Tussaud’s point of view – she’s just not interesting or likeable enough to carry a story.
I don’t think that was the only problem. To enhance my point – there was not enough character development from any angle – the number of notable and colourful characters during the French Revolution would be overwhelming at the best of times, but I felt particularly removed from them because they weren’t fleshed out enough. I hesitate to make judgment on Moran’s artistic ability – she may well have some – but I felt her descriptions of Madame Tussaud measuring and drawing her waxwork models to be tiresome, almost passionless. Present tense language was also distracting and somehow unsophisticated, regurgitating historical facts rather than heralding any true insight into the era.
Let’s face it – Moran wasn’t employing her usual flair that I had so admired with Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and, to a lesser extent but still impressive enough, Cleopatra’s Daughter. This book felt like a particularly onerous history lesson where the teacher is not even sure what they think of the subject matter. I couldn’t muster an interest for the book, knowing that there are a ton more immersive books out there on the shadows of Marie Antoinette’s reign and the French Revolution. At page 157 I was forced to relinquish my love of everything Moran. I can only hope the author learns from the mistakes she made with this novel, so I can learn to love her again.
Number of Pages: 440.
Year of Publication: 2011.
Book Challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011.