The historical Madame Tussaud provides an unusual lens on the French Revolution.
Sixteen-year-old thief Celie and her companion in crime, Algernon, make a precarious living stealing from the French elite. Both teens resent the aristocracy, believing that the rich caused the deaths of their families. By chance, Celie’s artistic talents come into play when she is arrested for stealing from Madame Tussaud; the famed waxwork lady, whose art is already one of the popular attractions in Paris, takes her in to make use of her skill at drawing uncannily realistic representations. Madame Tussaud is also the drawing tutor to the king’s sister, Madame Elizabeth, which brings the reluctant Celie into the last innocent days at Versailles. When the revolution begins, Algernon fights for freedom, but Madame Tussaud faces the guillotine. Duble’s writing flows smoothly, but her characters often seem muddled—motivations and emotions are spelled out, not felt. However, the history behind the story (such as the fact that Madame Tussaud was forced to make wax casts of the severed heads of the royals, including her friend Madame Elizabeth) is fascinating, and it propels the story to its somewhat hopeful end.
Stumbles aside, an intriguing look at an ever compelling time. (Historical fiction. 12-16)