The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Bookfinds January 25, 2013 0

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

People Magazine calls it “deeply moving and inventive historical novel…[that is] ultimately a tribute to the beauty of sisterly love.” It’s also an Indie Next Pick, with one reviewer saying, “At the end of the 19th century, Paris was the center of the world for all arts, and humanity struggled with massive changes in the very structure of society. Degas and Zola were players on this stage as were three sisters who aspired to the world of ballet. Based on historical figures and incidents, this novel delivers great atmosphere and fully realized characters who weave through the harsh yet rich tapestry of the times and tell a story of family, romance, degradation, and fulfillment.” —Karen Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

The Washington Post ran a review of Painted Girls by Susan Vreeland. She writes that Buchanan  “paints the girls who spring from the page as vibrantly as a dancer’s leap across a stage.” Buchanan details Belle Epoque Paris, a space and time that I have not explored in fiction and the three poor sisters dreaming of being ballerinas. “Through their bad decisions, lying, thieving and prostitution of one sort or another, one reads on, compelled by love for these girls whom Buchanan describes so compassionately.”

SUMMARY:

A gripping novel set in Belle Époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era.

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.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural,
and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.”

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