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The Painted Girls Hardcover – Jan 10 2013

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (Jan. 10 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594486247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594486241
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.1 x 23.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #289,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Buchanan has created an entire world for Marie and her elder sister Antoinette, sketched in rich detail and teeming with suspense. . . . [a] cinematic read that is hard to put down, destined to be hotly debated book-club fodder across the country.”
The Globe and Mail

“Deeply moving and inventive . . . Buchanan's evocative portrait of 19th-century Paris brings to life its sights, sounds, and smells, along with the ballet hall where dancers hunger for a place in the corps. . . . But nothing is more real or gripping than the emotions of Marie and her older sister Antoinette. . . . Their tale is ultimately a tribute to the beauty of sisterly love."

“The ethereal ballerina from Degas’s famed sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen comes to life in this richly imagined novel. Amid the glamour of tutus and art emerges a surprisingly gritty story of survival in the gutters of Belle Epoque Paris.”
Entertainment Weekly

“In The Painted Girls, a historically based work of fiction rich with naturalistic details of late-19th-century Paris, Cathy Marie Buchanan paints the girls who spring from the page as vibrantly as a dancer’s leap across a stage. . . .A compelling story of yearning for love in the face of ugliness and brutality. Wheeling out of control, the two older girls descend from their pretty pirouettes to misery, their mutual affection torn apart for a time. Nevertheless, Buchanan makes us feel they are good at heart. The Painted Girls is a captivating story of fate, tarnished ambition and the ultimate triumph of sister-love.”
—Susan Vreeland, The Washington Post

“In this compelling tale, we meet a fictionalized Marie Van Goethem (one of the young dancers who posed for Degas) and her sister, whose journeys out of the Paris slums evoke the light and the dark of the Belle Epoque."
Good Housekeeping

“Two impoverished sisters in Belle Epoque Paris enter the world of the ballet (Degas) and theater (Zola) but also face temptations that can lure young women in the demimonde."
USA Today

“In The Painted Girls, a carefully researched, deeply imagined historical novel…the Belle Époque comes to vibrant, often aching life.”
Chicago Tribune

“ [Buchanan] treats her girls with far greater care than do their contemporaries, seeing worth in them despite their misjudgments and calamities.”
Christian Science Monitor

“Buchanan does more than just write about what she knows; that same verisimilitude wends through the whole book: the grinding poverty in which the sisters live, the interaction between them, the daily life of a Parisian all come to life in her capable hands.”
Huffington Post

“Inspired by Edgar Degas' Little Dancer Age 14 and the true story of two sisters coming of age in Belle Époque Paris, The Painted Girls imagines the girls' respective introductions to civilized society and its surprising discourteous environment behind closed doors. Buchanan’s prose is as haunting as it is elegant as she conjures a glamorous but seedy Paris and exposes the many innate paradoxes of sisterhood and the world of classical ballet.”
Harpers Bazaar

“Cathy Marie Buchanan’s writing is so good that I rushed through this book . . . how begrudgingly I began to turn the pages as the end approached. . . . Buchanan weaves real and fictional characters and their stories to create a rich stew of drunkards, deceivers and ne’er to wells, seasoned by the occasional soft-hearted soul, who change the lives of the sisters.”
Toronto Star

“A dark valentine to Belle Epoque Paris."

“Buchanan brings the unglamorous reality of the late 19th-century Parisian demimonde into stark relief while imagining the life of Marie Van Goethem, the actual model for the iconic Degas statue Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. . . . Buchanan does a masterful job of interweaving historical figures into her plot, but it is the moving yet unsentimental portrait of family love, of two sisters struggling to survive with dignity, that makes this a must-read."
Kirkus (starred)

“History, coming of age, and the art of Degas's beloved dancers are woven together in this enchanting novel by Cathy Marie Buchanan. As the Van Goethem sisters strive for beauty and grace, they struggle for their daily survival in the underbelly of 19th-century Paris. Their choices are framed by the harsh lives into which they were born, animated by love, and set the course of their awakening into womanhood. The Painted Girls is utterly captivating.”
—Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster’s Wager

The Painted Girls is a beautiful book—a heartbreaking portrait of vulnerability, and a tribute to the power of sisterhood. And, like all good historical fiction, it gives us a rare and vivid glimpse into a time and place very different from our own. Lucky is the reader who gets swept up in these magical pages.”
—Alison Pick, author of Far to Go

The Painted Girls is historical fiction at its finest, awash in period details of the Paris of Degas and Zola while remaining, at its heart, the poignant story of two sisters struggling to stay together even as they find themselves pulled toward different, and often misunderstood, dreams. Cathy Marie Buchanan also explores the uneasy relationship between artist and muse with both compassion and soul-searing honesty.”
—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator's Wife

“Part mystery, part love story, The Painted Girls breathes heart and soul into a fascinating era of the City of Lights.One can't help but be drawn in by this compelling and lyrical tale of sister love and rivalry."
—Heidi W. Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

“If you’ve ever looked at a famed piece of art and wondered what the artist was thinking or who the subjects really were, you will be swept away by The Painted Girls. Wonderfully imagined and masterfully rendered, this story of 19th century Paris and life behind the scenes of its legendary Opera House will change the way you see the world of ballet, art and the lives it portrays.”
—Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of Secret Daughter

“In a rich story at once troubling and inspiring, Cathy Marie Buchanan writes masterfully about the hard life of two sisters in nineteenth century Paris and that fine line dividing the gilt-edged from the gritty. A wonderful tale, beautifully told.”
—Terry Fallis, author of Best Laid Plans () --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Painted Girls is a #1 National Bestseller in Canada, a New York Times bestseller, and has garnered rave reviews and been showered with special attention—everything from selection as a People Magazine pick to inclusion in Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List” to being named a best book of 2013 by NPR, Good Housekeeping and Goodreads. Her debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still, is a New York Times bestseller and a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection. She holds a BSc (Honours Biochemistry) and an MBA from Western University. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she now resides in Toronto with her husband and three sons.

Connect with Cathy:




--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Toronto gal on Dec 18 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, the cover/design is lovely. Perfect gift material. I enjoyed Ms Buchanan's first book, The Day the Falls Stood still so I eagerly read this new one.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a richly detailed story portraying the dark netherworld behind the pretty tutus in Edgar Degas’ paintings. The story seamlessly shifts between the perspectives of the two van Goethem sisters, Antoinette and Marie (Degas’ muse for Little Dancer Aged Fourteen). Reading it, I fell completely into Paris, 1879, and the world of the “petit rats” struggling to elevate their lives through the arduous and elevated work of ballet. Heartbreaking, lyrical, beautiful and a very satisfying read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on Jan. 8 2013
Format: Paperback
I have to confess that initially this book held no appeal for me (aside from the beautiful cover). I don’t have much interest in Paris or the ballet but it is so well written that I was engaged from the beginning. I found myself thinking and worrying about the characters throughout the day and I couldn’t wait until the evening when I would have time to read again. Whether you know Paris or not, you will be amazed at how well researched this book is. Cathy has clearly done her homework and the details of Paris and the Opera bring the story to life. Get a copy of this book and prepare to escape to the Belle Epoque.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mirka on Dec 18 2012
Format: Paperback
Ms. Buchanan's meticulous research lets you quickly slip into late 1800's Paris. Life in the city is grubby and dangerous with rare glimpses of beauty. The ballet world is less than glamorous when seen through the eyes of the young girl who models for Edgar Degas . Her story of family, survival and a love of dance will make you want to scan through images of the Little Dancer aged Fourteen to see if you can catch the look of determination in her features that must have inspired the author. A lovely story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jilla Lonsdale TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Feb. 24 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really liked it but felt that the author never quite fully explored the characters -- it could have been so much better
The plot was great, but there was much color that could have been added to this book -- I only felt it scratched the surface of its possibility
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anne on Jan. 5 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved this book. I found myself completely drawn into the book to the point where I couldn't put it down, much to the chagrin of my family. Buchanan describes the setting, time period in such vivid detail I felt transported to belle epoque Paris! The book has so many wonderful themes for discussion-poverty, family ties/strife, survival, culture of the time period (art, dance). I highly recommend this book, especially for book clubs or any lover of historical fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Heather E on Dec 30 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Painted Girls is Cathy Marie Buchanan's second novel and like her first, it was a read I couldn't stop but I was sad when I knew it was coming to an end! This story takes place in the 1880's in Paris, and is about 3 young sisters who basically take care of each other during some very difficult and dangerous times, when they are forced to make decisions which will affect their lives forever. Their love and loyalty to one another helps to guide them and the author makes you feel this, right from the start. Historical fiction is my favourite type of writing and in The Painted Girls, the author creates a story of mystery in amongst my learning of the Paris opera and the artists of this time, including the famous painter and sculpture Edgar Degas.

I would highly recommend this novel about love, determination and loyalty. I can hardly wait for Cathy's next book! - read less
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Janet B TOP 100 REVIEWER on Sept. 1 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The lives of the three van Goethem sisters are about to change drastically, when their father dies. There is Antoinette aged 17, Marie almost 14 and Charlotte aged 7. Without their father's wages and with only the small amount of money that their mother earns as a laundress, who has an addiction to Absinthe, they are behind in their rent. They will certainly be evicted if they don't find a way of coming up with the money.

It is Paris in the 19th century on the rue de Douai, the poorest street in all of Paris, where the van Goethems live in a lodging. The two main characters in this story are Antoinette and Marie. They take turns in telling their stories.

Antoinette has been just dismissed from Ballet classes at the Paris Opera for arguing with the dance Director and told never to return. Antoinette takes over as mother to her sisters. The sisters are uneducated, poor and too young to get jobs. Their mother stands up and tells Antoinette to take her sisters, Marie and Charlotte, to the Opera Ballet Dance School to be trained to enter the famous Ballet. That is their only chance of making some money and getting out of their situation. They are accepted into the school.

In the meantime, Antoinette gets herself a small walk-on part in a play, which has been adapted from Emile Zola's masterpiece L'Assommoir. She will be playing an ignorant and poverty stricken laundress with a few words. Zola's novel is about poverty in the working-class Paris among the common and ignorant people sweating it out as laundresses etc. The Heroine in this story is named Gervaise and the story tells of her decline into destitution, alcoholism and death. Antoinette meets up with a bushy-haired man named Emile, who also has a small part in the play.
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