The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
- Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
- Published by: Riverhead Books
- Release Date: 1/10/2013
Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous
young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.
Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer
Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.
- There are ballerina’s on the cover!
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When I was a little girl I craved books about ballet – scouring the shelves of the library, looking through bookstores, garage sales, and flea markets trying to find anything that would have pictures of pointe shoes, references to famous ballerina’s or composers of ballets. I still remember reading a book I found at a garage sale so many times that it literally fell apart in my hands one day (but for some reason I cannot recall the title of it, I just know it was so so good to my nine-year-old self).
I wasn’t a big fan of Cathy Marie Buchanan’s previous novel, so I approached The Painted Girls with some trepidation. I mean, her writing was sound – but the subject matter in her previous book left me a little, well, bored. That did not happen with The Painted Girls.
Told from two viewpoints, sisters Antoinette and Marie, this is the story of a family who has lost its father, the mother is a drunkard, the oldest sister a foolish girl and the younger one struggling to find her footing. There is a third sister, Charlotte, but she does not receive much of a voice in this story.
Also making an appearance in this book is the painter, Degas, and Buchanan references quite a few of his famous pieces of art to give the story setting and context.
I found The Painted Girls to be a heart-breaking, beautiful story and I walked away feeling like I’d read something that wasn’t only interesting, but educational and enriching as well. Buchanan has redeemed herself in my eyes with this subject matter and I’m anxiously awaiting her next project.
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