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on December 18, 2012
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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on January 8, 2013
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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on December 18, 2012
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 1, 2013
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. Antoinette soon falls in love with this bum and he uses her in every way he can. He brings her to bars, feeds her drinks and she meets his dangerous and violent friends. Emile is a criminal. In the meantime, Antoinette stays out nights and only returns to help out when she can get away.

Marie is doing nicely in Ballet School. It is there she meets the artist, Edgar Degas. Monsieur Degas takes an interest in Marie and asks her if she would pose for him in exchange for a few francs. She accepts. Marie is determined to be a successful dancer. She is working very hard and is ambitious. Marie is not a pretty girl, but Monsieur Degas is impressed with her straight back, her long neck and the body of a dancer. Degas paintings tell the story of the heart and body. Marie becomes his Muse. She is in the Degas painting titled the "little Dancer of Fourteen Years" or "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen." In the mornings, Marie works in a bakery kneading the dough for 80 loaves of bread to earn money to support her family and buy herself the things she needs for ballet. There is going to be the fifth exhibition of the independent artists and Monsieur Degas, artist and sculptor, chooses Marie to model for the statuette, later called "Little Dancer."

Marie and the other dancers go to see the exhibition. She is thinking of passing the examination to get into the quadrille. Her pay would increase immensely. At the exhibition, the girls are talking about their admirers or protectors. Marie listens closely. They are the finest men, married of course, wishing only to make a ballet girl's life easier, so that she could keep her mind on her work. These men are tired of their wives and looking for a bit of pleasure. Dancers are always collecting trinkets from their admirers. She is called aside by her dance teacher and is told that she is accepted into the quadrille.

Charlotte is doing well at the dance school. But Antoinette has gotten herself in trouble and needs help from Marie. Marie makes a decision that could change her life forever.

The story has many twists and turns. What happens to the van Goethem sisters? Do Marie and Charlotte succeed as Ballet Dancers? Does Antoinette finally leave her lover?

The Painted Girls is a tale of two sisters, Antoinette and Marie, struggling to survive with dignity as dancers, in spite of the odds against them. Little Charlotte doesn't have much of a part in this book.

Cathy Marie Buchanan tells the story so beautifully and the story is very well researched. I wonder if Ms. Buchanan ever danced in her life, because the writer has put so much heart into this story. I must mention how appropriate and eye-catching the cover is.

I loved this book and didn't want it to end. It is heart wrenching and you are pulling for these girls to be successful under such difficult circumstances.

Readers, don't pass up on this winner. It is so enjoyable and entertaining. I am very happy to give The Painted Girls FIVE STARS.
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on December 30, 2012
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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on January 5, 2013
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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on February 24, 2013
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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on December 24, 2012
I LOVED this book. The rich characters and the well-researched story transport you to life in a poor neighbourhood of 19th century Paris where "making it" as a ballerina entailed sacrifice to an extent that goes way beyond working hard. The story is completely engrossing, alternating between one sister and the other, both trying to make their way out of the misery and poverty that surrounds them. I could not put this book down... Highly recommend it!
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on February 3, 2013
Have you ever fallen in love with a painting and wondered the story that inspired it? Well this story is about the beautiful little dancer from the Edgar Degas painting of 'Little Dancer Aged 14'. Sure it's not the official story of the girl who became such a beautiful masterpiece but it provides a very realistic and believable story nonetheless. This story holds true to the form and the style of the century in which it's set so you can easily believe that you are in Paris in the 1800's.
Marie and Antoinette are sisters living in Paris with a mother who has sunk into a deep depression with the death of their father. Their father was the only one capable of supporting their family and with his death that burden falls on the two teenage girls. But what are two teenage girls going to do to make money in 1879 Paris? To begin they try their hand at ballet, which is where young Marie becomes the muse of Edgar Degas. But both girls soon realize that dancing is not all that goes on in a Paris theatre and if they're looking to earn the money they need, there are other things they could do.
This beautiful story weaves together the lives and ways of two sisters who will need to rely on each other in order to survive in a world that threatens to eat them alive. They will need to rely on their own beliefs and their own morals to decide whether or not to enter the darker backstage of Parisian life in order to make the money their family could truly use.
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on December 18, 2012
This is a brilliantly written historical fiction set in Paris in the 1880's. A story about the lives of sisters trying to make their way through life under less than ideal circumstances. Do the girls have control over their destiny or is it fate that delegates their position in life? Intertwining the tale of the sisters' lives and true facts from historical documents, paintings, ballets, plays, sculptures, murder trials and more this notion is explored. A true page turner! This book is filled with sister love and rivalry and had me hooked from beginning to end. An utterly fantastic read! I couldn't put this book down!!!
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