- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st Edition edition (Dec 25 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1443412341
- ISBN-13: 978-1443412346
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #81,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Painted Girls Paperback – Deckle Edge, Dec 25 2012
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Sketched in rich detail and teeming with suspense. The Painted Girls is hard to put down. (The Globe and Mail)
Buchanan weaves real and fictional characters and their stories to create a rich stew of drunkards, deceivers and ne’er-do-wells, seasoned by the occasional soft-hearted soul, who change the lives of the sisters. (Toronto Star)
The reader is completely absorbed in the struggle of Marie to rise above her circumstances. . . . [A] convincing, heartfelt story. (National Post)
History, coming of age and the art of Degas’s beloved dancers are woven together in this enchanting novel. Utterly captivating. (Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster's Wager and Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures)
You will be swept away by The Painted Girls. Wonderfully imagined and masterfully rendered . . . [it] will change the way you see the world of ballet, art and the lives it portrays. (Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Secret Daughter)
“Buchanan paints the girls who spring from the page as vibrantly as a dancer’s leap across a stage. . . . A captivating story of fate, tarnished ambition and the ultimate triumph of sister-love.” (Washington Post)
“Based on historical figures and incidents, this novel of family, romance, degradation, and fulfillment delivers great atmosphere and fully-realized characters.” (Boston Globe)
“Richly imagined. . . . Amid the glamour of tutus and art emerges a surprisingly gritty story of survival in the gutters of Belle époque Paris.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Belle époque Paris springs to life under the sure hand of Cathy Marie Buchanan. . . . In this book I found a lovely braiding of the real and invented, a seductive world I did not want to leave.” (NPR)
“Buchanan achieves all that historical fiction asks for in The Painted Girls.” (Vancouver Sun)
“Buchanan’s prose is as haunting as it is elegant.” (Harper's Bazaar)
“Two impoverished sisters in Belle époque 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)
“A dark valentine to Belle époque Paris.” (Vogue)
“As two sisters’ paths converge and spiral out of control, Buchanan powerfully . . . depicts their efforts to navigate the slippery ethical terrain facing them in an era when a young woman’s most lucrative asset was her body.” (Bust Magazine)
“There’s no doubting or denying that Buchanan is a writer, born and made-a masterful narrator who can start with historical people and places and overlay them with powerful stories from her imagination.” (Costco Connection)
“A realistically robust portrait of working-class life in late nineteenth-century Paris. Guaranteed to appeal to fans of Tracy Chevalier, Susan Vreeland, and Melanie Benjamin.” (Booklist)
“The struggle of three sisters in 19th-century Paris blossoms into the rich history of Marie van Goethem, model for Edgar Degas’s controversial statue, Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen . . . Buchanan captures their story in this engrossing depiction of belle époque Paris.” (Publishers Weekly)
“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 Reviews (starred review))
“Fascinating. . . . Meticulously researched.” (Quill & Quire)
“In this compelling tale, we meet fictionalised 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 dark of the Belle époque.” (Good Housekeeping)
“[Buchanan] treats her girls with far greater care than do their contemporaries, seeing worth in them despite their misjudgments and calamities.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“We know some, but not all, details of Marie’s life. To provide a full story, those details have been vividly and believably embroidered by Toronto author Cathy Marie Buchanan in a gritty and compelling new novel titled The Painted Girls.” (Ottawa Citizen)
“History, coming of age and the art of Degas’s beloved dancers are woven together in this enchanting novel. Utterly captivating.” (Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster's Wager and Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures)
“You will be swept away by The Painted Girls. Wonderfully imagined and masterfully rendered . . . [it] will change the way you see the world of ballet, art and the lives it portrays.” (Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of Secret Daughter and The Golden Son)
“Buchanan writes masterfully about the hard life of two sisters in 19th-century Paris. . . . A wonderful tale, beautifully told.” (Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans)
“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)
“Historical fiction at its finest. . . . Buchanan also explores the uneasy relationship between artist and muse with both compassion and soul-searing honesty.” (Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been and The Aviator's Wife)
“Sisters, dance, art, ambition, and intrigue in late 1800s Paris. The Painted Girls offers the best of historical fiction: compelling characters brought backstage at l’Opera and front and center in Degas’ studio. This one has “book club favorite” written all over it.” (Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters)
“Beautiful and haunting. From the first page, I was swept up and enchanted.” (Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot)
About the Author
CATHY MARIE BUCHANAN is the author of The Day the Falls Stood Still, a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection and one of the Canada Reads Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade. She holds a B.Sc. (Honours, Biochemistry) and an MBA from Western University. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she now resides in Toronto.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
The oldest, Antoinette, used to be one of the petit rats, one of the little girls hired by the ballet. Now she does walk-on roles in the Opera, trying to help her mother, an absinthe-addicted laundress, support her younger sisters. She's also in love with a young man who she believes loves her truly, but her sister believes is dangerous. Her younger sister Marie is just starting at the ballet as a petit rat. She is talented and, while not beautiful, is chosen by the artist Edgar Degas as model and muse. The youngest sister, Charlotte is an excellent dancer, and follows her sisters into the Opera.
The book goes back and forth between chapters narrated by Antoinette and Marie. We follow their efforts to survive, to keep going, to have enough to eat - no matter what it takes.
It wasn't until I read the author's notes that I realized that the Van Goethem sisters actually existed - that Marie was, in fact, the model for Degas' sculpture 'Little Dancer, aged fourteen'; that Charlotte had a successful ballet career that lasted until 1954; that Antoinette's lover (although they never met in real life) was the defendant in a sensational murder trial.
I found this book to be well researched, the characters are beautifully drawn. Nothing is sugar coated - it was a tough and often unfair life. There are no 'AHA' redemptive moments, where someone realizes the error of her ways. There is no knight in shining armour to offer true love and a way out. There is, however, the thread of loyalty, devotion and sisterly love throughout.
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