Friday, 11 September 2015

Review: Madame Tussaud's Apprentice by Kathleen Benner Duble

Madame Tussaud's Apprentice by Kathleen Benner Duble
Publisher: Alma Books
Released: July 15th 2015
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king's brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes. Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves? From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, "Madame Tussaud's Apprentice" is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history. (from Goodreads)

Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice was an interesting read and I liked the way the fictional story and real events were weaved together.

I have to admit, I don’t know a lot about the French Revolution, but the author’s note at the end of the book was very informative and gave insight into a lot of what happened in the book. I did a bit of Wiki-ing after finishing the book, and it’s clear that the author toned down things a bit and changed up some stuff to make things easier to read. I was fine with this, but I imagine it might bother you a little if you’re a real history buff. In general though, the book gives you a very basic overview of of what happened during the French Revolution, which is enough to help understand the story (and will perhaps inspire you to some of your own research afterwards).

Célie was a thief living on the streets, and had no-one but Algernon, the boy who saved her when she was dying in a ditch. She had a hard life; her whole family was dead, she was just about managing to survive herself, and she was angry with the rich people who lived in luxury while the majority of people were starving and unable to feed their families. She stole from the rich, or scammed them, and she and Algernon tried their best to hold on to their beliefs about equality. I liked Célie, though I did think she could be very naive at times. Apart from that, she was a good character to follow. She had trouble in situations where she was expected to act proper and like there was nothing wrong, when people were dying needlessly every day. She also didn’t compromise her beliefs, even when it led to conflict with Algernon, the person she loved the most at the start of the book. I really enjoyed seeing Célie’s relationship with Manon (Madame Tussaud) develop and how they grew to care for each other. It was nice to see a bond like that, and Manon was probably one of my favourite characters in the book. She did what she had to survive, and she didn’t sugarcoat things. At the same time, she took care of Célie when she didn’t have to, and helped her more than she needed at the start, even before they had gotten to know each other. I also quite liked Manon’s uncle - her whole family, actually. They were a nice unit and obviously cared a lot for each other.

I really struggled to like Algernon. Even at the start of the book, he was just eh. I didn’t warm to him, and I wasn’t really invested in the romance, so I didn’t really care whenever Célie was expressing how much she loved Algernon but couldn’t be with him. It was okay though, because there were a lot of other interesting scenes that made up for my lack of interest in the romance.

The writing was a little choppy at the start but got better as the book went on - I think it was just the opening chapters that were introducing the story. Plot-wise, it was insightful to see the Revolution through Célie’s eyes. I would have maybe liked a bit more detail in places but I can understand that things had to be omitted to made the book more readable and not too long. The ending wrapped things up nicely and left off in a place where you knew what would happen next (and more was explained in the author’s note, which was nice). 

Overall, I enjoyed Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice. It wasn’t as action-packed as I was expecting, and there were a lot of “a few weeks later”s instead of descriptions of events, but it was worth the read and would likely be enjoyed to those interested in Madame Tussaud or the French Revolution, or history in general.

3 comments:

  1. I like books that fictionalize historical figures...I might check this one out.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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  2. I can't stand the "a few weeks later" stuff. Still I like historical fiction and this one sounds interesting.

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  3. I really need to try more historical fiction. I don't much about the French Revolution either, so changes wouldn't bother me too much. lol Thanks for sharing - I hadn't heard of this one! Sorry you didn't LOVE it, but sounds good overall.

    -Lauren
    www.letsgetbeyondtolerance.blogspot.com

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