The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls

byCathy Marie Buchanan

Paperback | December 25, 2012

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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 Opera, where for a scant seventeen francs a week, she will be trained to enter the famous Ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work 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 14. Meanwhile, Antoinette, derailed by her love for the dangerous émile Abadie, must choose between honest labour and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde. 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.” In the end, each will come to realize that her salvation—her survival, even—lies with the other.

Cathy Marie Buchanan’s stories have appeared in several of Canada’s most respected literary journals:The Antigonish Review,The Dalhousie Review,Descant,The New QuarterlyandQuarry. She holds a BSC (Honors Biochemistry) and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she grew up amid the awe-...
Title:The Painted GirlsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.92 inPublished:December 25, 2012Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1443412341

ISBN - 13:9781443412346

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable This was a nicely written book based on a true story. I love ballet, Degas, and historical fiction, so it was pretty natural for me to like this book. None of the sisters were particularly likable, in my opinion, but they were still interesting characters. A good read, but pretty standard work for this genre, doesn't stand out from the crowd for me.
Date published: 2018-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Story! I loved the historic fiction, the art, and more than anything, the loyalty, love and bond between the sisters that endures hardship, poverty, tragedy and pain.
Date published: 2017-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! I LOVED this book! I could not put it down. Loved the historical setting and peek into the art world in historical Paris.
Date published: 2017-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Painted Girls The dark side of old Paris and it's most prized feature, the opera house. Loved the combination of history and fiction in this novel.
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Panted Girls The Painted Girls is a good book, with interesting characters. It is a novel about the three Van Goetham sisters in Paris of the 1880's. They are exceedingly poor and struggle daily for the most basic subsistence. 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.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read! Loved it! held my attention from beginning to end! You really feel as if you know these characters and I was sorry to see them go
Date published: 2015-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Painted Girls This beautifully written book takes us behind the scenes of a dance studio, the exhaustion and the pain of trying to get to the top of the dance profession. Simultaneously, we get a glimpse of the men who admire them and the times they live in
Date published: 2015-07-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls I found it difficult at times to detemine who was speaking. I enjoyed the description of the time period.
Date published: 2015-03-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls It was a fairly good period novel giving glimpses of life and hardships in France. Loved the strength and duty of sisters bonding to persevere.
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The Painted Ladies I could not get into it.
Date published: 2014-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting... A good mix of fiction and historical context - a good read!
Date published: 2014-08-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A beautiful story Better finish story than the real life
Date published: 2014-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully Written The story of how these sisters struggle to keep their life together in the midst of so many things trying to tear them apart keeps you riveted. It also brings to light how difficult it was for girls of a lower class to get ahead and how easily they were exploited. An excellent story.
Date published: 2014-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls Very interesting story enjoyed emensly
Date published: 2014-05-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls An excellent depiction of Paris at time setting of the novel. The shunting between the characters became a bit annoying and amore streamlined narrative style could have achieved the same effect. The book makes one want to go back to review Degas's work and also revisit Paris. Overall a great story.
Date published: 2014-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls. Excellent though ended a bit abruptly. Really liked it though.
Date published: 2014-05-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Captivating The Painted Girls was a great read that led to more than one very late night of reading. Towards the middle of the book I was surprised that I still had so much left of the story, as it felt like it should have been wrapping up. But at the end, I was again taken by surprise because it felt like the story could have continued. Otherwise, it was an amazing read!
Date published: 2014-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls Enjoyed the historical detail... Good read right to the finish.
Date published: 2014-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Painted G One of those stories from which you return to the present only after a mental shake, its world is so engrossing. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girs Good story:-Rather sudden an weakending
Date published: 2014-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No fear for Painted Girls I embarked upon this book with some trepidation; I feared it would scar my affection for Degas' art but it did not. If anything, my appreciation grew. It is more about the girls than Degas himself but he is present too. Not only is the story good, the writer's craft makes it worthy of reading in itself. I wish I could read it for the first time again.
Date published: 2014-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No fear for Painted Girls I enjoyed this book for the culture portrayed as well as the characters. The period lifestyle depicted seemed realistic & interesting.
Date published: 2014-01-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from No fear for Painted Girls As a past student of art history I was drawn to this book for the hope of providing a unique viewpoint from young, aspiring, low class women in the realm of 19th century Impressionism - a time known for it's modern innovations and optimistic idealism. While Degas's art pieces aimed to capture that fleeting moment in time that Impressionists were enthralled by, he was also a self-described "realist" focused on capturing the hardships that also lay beneath the facade of dance and the struggling working class. This is conveyed through the story as the Van Goethem sisters are swept into the worlds of art and dance facing exploitation in the hopes for a better life. While i enjoyed the read, I only rate it a 3-5. I can't quite explain my average rating other than perhaps it needed more substance for me to the characters' developments and-or the literary descriptions of the times.
Date published: 2014-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No fear for Painted Girls Great to find another talented Canadian author. Well written, based on a true story set at a time of the early days of Impressionism art. An interesting clash between classes, men and women, right and wrong. Stays with you after the last page.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from No fear for Painted Girls Nicely written story of a poverty stricken family. The daughters are struggling to survive and their mother is of little help. It is heartbreaking to read how men take advantage their struggle.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from didn't love it Cathy Marie Buchanan has taken French Impressionist Edgar Degas’ famous statue, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, and spun it into a piece of historical fiction that will probably really appeal to some people, but with which I had a love/hate relationship. The Painted Girls is the story of sisters Marie and Antoinette van Goethem, who live with their widowed, absinthe addicted mother and younger sister, Charlotte, in Paris in 1878. The novel alternates between elder sister Antoinette’s story and Marie’s as they struggle to survive extreme poverty and a mother who just doesn’t seem capable of taking care of them. The only way out of their dire situation is if Marie makes it into the Paris Opera (Antoinette tried, but didn’t have the talent) as a ballet dancer. "With the news that Maman is sending us to the dance school, Charlotte threads her fingers together, knuckles whitening as she works to hide her joy. I keep my face still, my dismay to myself. The petit rats – the scrawny, hopeful girls, vying for the quickest feet, the lightest leap, the prettiest arms – are babies, like Charlotte, some as young as six. It puts my nerves jumping, the idea of me – a thirteen-year-old - lost among them at the barre, rats who earn their name by scurrying along the Opera corridors, hungry and dirty and sniffing out crumbs of charity." It is here that she comes to the attention of Mr. Degas, who hires her to model for him. Marie wants something more for her life and she is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. That is not to say that she consistently makes wise choices, only that the desire for a better life is what drives her. Antoinette’s journey is slightly more bumpy. She has already been turned out of the ballet as she is too old and not talented enough. She understands Marie’s talents, though, and works to ensure she has the lessons she needs to progress and food in her belly. Then she meets Emile Abadie, a shifty boy who “is not much to look at …with that scrub-brushy hair of his creeping low on his forehead and his black eyes sinking too deep beneath the weighty ridge of his brow and his jaw looking like the sort of those on dogs it is best to steer away from in the streets.” Emile is a charmer though and even when he abuses Antoinette, she stays by his side. The Painted Girls evokes the Belle Époque period in Paris, a period which is, ironically, characterized by optimism. Art, music, literature and scientific discoveries all flourished during the period and Buchanan makes the most of them including bringing Zola’s masterpiece L’Assommoir to the stage. Despite the novel’s merits (and there are many) I found the book overwritten. Not badly written, the language is often quite beautiful, just over-written. The sisters’ journey was intriguing, I am a fan of both the ballet and Degas, but at times I have to admit that it was a bit of a slog.
Date published: 2013-10-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls It is Paris in the last 1880s, the van Goethem sisters have just lost their fasther and their mother spends her laundress money disappearing into an absinthe bottle. This means that eviction and starvation are just around the corner. Antoinette finds several odd jobs as a walk-on at the theater where she meets her boyfriend and lover. Marie, aged fourteen and Charlotte, age ten join the ballet and the hard work that entails to earn a paltry sum of three francs per day. They both study arduously to go up the ranks in order to earn more. For Marie she is chosen to model for Degas as one of his ballerinas and nudes. As she progresses she attracts a sponsor and becomes little more than a prostitute. She feels so conflicted by this and can not approach her older sister as Antoinette is having problems of her own. Antoinette's boyfriend has been charged with murder and the choices are either the guillotine or transport to New Caledonia. This story is a wonderful story about sister helping sister and the sordid world of Degas' ballerinas. Loved this story
Date published: 2013-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating & Dark This book is not about the ballet world of frothy tutus and pink ballet shoes instead The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan revolves around the three van Goethem sisters who live in the squalidness of Paris’s Montmartre in 1878. Their father’s sudden death and a mother’s descent into an absinthe bottle make a hard life even more unbearable. Marie, the only literate sibling enters the dance school at the Paris Opera. She starts as just another petit rat; the little girls who scurry around in the shadows of dingy hallways and overbearing ballet teachers just trying to survive and achieve some sort of prominence in the Paris Opera Ballet. Antoinette is the caustic and self-destructive older sister who makes just about every mistake that an impoverished young woman can make in those days. The youngest Charlotte plays a lesser role while mostly unlikable it is worth noting that she does not make the same mistakes as her sisters. I never got particularly attached to any of the sisters and at times had to take a break from the squalidness of it all but that is actually a compliment to Buchanan’s writing skills which are quite superb and she never fell into the trap of many writers who overdo descriptive passages. Buchanan revealed in an interview that she was inspired to write The Painted Girls after watching the BBC documentary The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. It was a Marie van Goethem.who was the model for that famous statuette by Degas. Critics back then were less than kind when it was unveiled, using words like “ugly” and “ape-like”. In fact it is the part of the book where Marie's ‘patron’ Monsieur Lefebvre reads the cruel reviews to her as she stands before him physically and emotionally naked which is especially poignant until something twists inside her and she becomes just another street girl asking for money. The book holds many intriguing sub-plots and Buchanan maintains a high level of authentic historical facts mixed with the story line. Which is why the unrealistic ‘happily ever after’ ending was such a disappointment; at that point The Painted Girls plummeted into the ordinary. In spite of this I do recommend what is a well-researched account of life in Belle Époque Paris.
Date published: 2013-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Painted Girls The slums of 19th-century Paris held few opportunities for young girls. The nearby Paris opera house, however, offered a place well-suited to pre-pubescent girls made slender by lack of nutrition. The few francs the girls earned as the corps behind the headline dancers helped families to pay rent and stave off hunger. Edgar Degas used these girls as subjects for many of his sketches and paintings, and the small payments he made for their time allowed them an extra baguette or two. The Painted Girls tells the story of one of his subjects and her family. Buchanan bases this fictional story on the real life of Marie van Goethem, the young dancer who posed for Degas' sculpture Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Buchanan also weaves in a fictional version of a real-life crime drama of the time to enrich the story further. Marie and her older sister, Antoinette, narrate the story. The two perspectives give a fuller picture of life at the opera house and life in the city at large. Set in a time when people viewed going hungry as a greater offense than posing nude, the first-person perspectives help us to sympathize with harmful decisions made out of misplaced loyalty or desperation. Buchanan researched the artwork of Degas, the Paris Opera House and the lives of the van Goethem family carefully. The resulting story entertains and informs. If you know the work of Degas, this book will give you another perspective on the work. If you're not familiar with his art, you will find yourself searching the internet for images. And you'll be sure to look up New Caledonia on a map.
Date published: 2013-07-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting and well researched I love France and gravitate to literature that has anything to do with France so naturally I was excited to read this book. I really enjoyed it, while I wasn't spell bound, the book held my interest. It was nicely written and well researched. The author exposes you to poverty in Paris during the late 1800s. Overall, not a great read but a good read.
Date published: 2013-05-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from GREAT NEW CANADIAN AUTHOR Ms. Buchanan charmed me with her first book “The Day the Falls Stood Still” and she did not disappoint with this book. She researches her topics well and incorporates her historical facts into a fascinating story giving the reader a taste of the reality of the life of her characters in the Paris of 1878. The Van Goethem sisters never lived in the lap of luxury but as long as their father was alive the family managed to keep the wolf from the door. When he dies and their mother sinks further and further into the welcoming oblivion of absinthe, the girls are forced to do whatever is necessary to keep their little family together. Marie joins the Paris opera where she can earn 17 francs a week. As Marie throws herself completely into her ballet Antoinette turns to the stage. But soon their meager earnings are still not enough and Antoinette meets rakish Emile Abadie, forcing her to decide between struggling through life or choosing more profitable, but less reputable, way of earning a living for young Parisian girls of the time. As Antoinette becomes embroiled in the seedier side of Paris Marie earns a little extra money by modeling for Edgar Degas, becoming the model of choice for his little ballerina statues. The story is told by both Marie and Antoinette, their very different voices adding to the story rather than deterring from it. If, like me, you wonder about the story behind a picture or painting, this book will satisfy that curiosity. The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I am sorry Ms. Buchanan turned her talents from a Canadian story to take us on a trip to Paris.
Date published: 2013-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Read This book was fantastic, I love historical novels that are based on factual accounts. The author did an amazing job making us fall in love with the characters. Very touching and quickly made it's way into my favourites list.
Date published: 2013-04-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Poverty in Paris I'm giving this book 3.5/5 stars. It really was a sad story about 3 sisters struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, in 1880s Paris. I always love reading about Paris, and the parts involving Degas and the history surrounding his painting of ballet dancers was fascinating. But there wasn't much to feel uplifted about in this book. The sadness underscored the history, the fiction, and the sisters pretty much throughout.
Date published: 2013-03-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from depressing this book was well written, but so dark and depressing. I kept hoping for light at the end of the tunnel, but all I found was another pit of depression.
Date published: 2013-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Amazing This book completely swept me away!
Date published: 2013-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Don't miss it! The Painted Girls is like time travel. It sweeps you immediately out of wherever you are and deep into the heart of Paris during the Belle Epoque. This is an aspect of Paris and art history you've likely never seen before, captured in exquisite detail. I'm so glad I read this book, loved it! Couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2013-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic coming-of-age historical fiction. C'est magnifique! Marie and Antoinette van Goethem are 2 of 3 sisters who live with their recently-widowed mother in the late 1800s in Paris. Antoinette, the eldest of the sisters, works as an extra in the controversial play L’Assommoir and is adamant to not become a laundress like their absinthe-drunk mother. Marie and Charlotte both begin ballet classes at the Paris Opéra but while Charlotte has the angelic look and determination of a ballerina, it is Marie that captures the attention of many – including Edgar Degas. She begins modelling for the artist where she will then become the model for his famous statuette Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. The two elder girls soon get wrapped up in a life that seems to be spinning out of control, faced with many crossroads that test their morals and comforts. I cannot sing enough praise about this book. It has everything that I love in it: Paris, ballet, a crime to solve and it’s written by a Canadian author. The Painted Girls is told in alternating points of view, switching back and forth and watching the story unfold from the eyes of Marie and Antoinette. The reader gets a fuller picture of what is going on even if the sisters themselves don’t know the whole story. The narrative was interjected at times with newspaper articles discussing the murders that were taking place in the city, and the “analysis”, as it were, of people with certain physical attributes more likely to be tied to criminal behaviour. This was a really interesting subject to broach, and eventually takes on even more relevance, but there is constant mention throughout the book of Charlotte being cute and Marie wasn’t. The idea that Buchanan brings forward on the correlation between how one looks, their status in society and how their future is to unfold closely linked was a thought provoking aspect to the overall book. The sisters don’t want to end up like their mother but, at their lowest points, wonder if they are doomed to the same fate. The Painted Girls is an amazingly researched coming-of-age story; full of mystery, determination, hope and drama – all set among the late 1800s Parisian ballet. C’est magnifique. This, and other reviews can be found on
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You should read this book! 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.
Date published: 2013-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I could not put it down I was lucky enough to receive this book from a friend for Christmas. Once I started into it, I could not stop reading it. I loved the setting (who doesn't love Paris!?) and the relationship between the two older sisters was so rich and poignant. I found some of the ballet terms confusing but I loved the details, especially of the underbelly of Paris at the time. A great story well-told.
Date published: 2013-01-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from what is all the fuss about? The story intrigued me, however, I could not get into it. I found the content disconnected and somewhat boring. Perhaps I shall try again at another time, just to see if it was just the wrong timing for me to read this.
Date published: 2012-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must-read!! Loved this book! The story is engrossing and the characters are rich. Life for a ballerina in 19th century Paris tell was quite different than it is today... I could not put this book down.
Date published: 2012-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unforgettable Reading an advance copy of this book was a privilege and a pleasure. The Painted Girls is a gorgeously written, richly visual portrait of striving and sisterhood. It masterfully evokes both the seamier sides of belle époque Paris and the poignant, timeless hopes of the three sisters whose story it tells. It's really unforgettable -- it will stay with you in wonderful ways and change how you think of the era, ballet, Degas, and the City of Light.
Date published: 2012-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this book, and I couldn't put it down! I also read Cathy Marie Buchanan's first book "The Day the Falls Stood Still" and am anxiously awaiting her next masterpiece. Keep writing Cathy!
Date published: 2012-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read - loved it! This was one of those books that stayed with me in between readings. I found myself thinking about the two sisters -worrying about their plight and hoping they would choose the right path. The relationship of the two sisters is beautifully captured against the back drop of the culture and society of historic Paris. This book has tenderness and hope but is balanced with the right amount of grit and edge to keep it fresh. Ms Buchanan has peppered her story with historical detail that adds compelling richness and depth to the main storyline. Definitely a recommended read!
Date published: 2012-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful read 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!
Date published: 2012-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read indeed! "The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan captivated my attention from beginning to end. Her beautifully written attention to detail with descriptions of time and place created a vivid image in my mind as I "watched" the story unfold. Taking place in Paris in the late 1880's, Buchanan writes an unforgettable story of the tender relationship between sisters as they face the hardships of young underprivileged girls in a city where they must endure both good and bad consequences of their actions. Buchanan manages to incorporate history, art and love into this novel. A read that will not disappoint.
Date published: 2012-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A MUST READ! I was fortunate enough to get a ARC of The Painted Girls. It 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 filled with sister love and rivalry had me hooked from beginning to end. A wonderful read. Another great book by Ms. Buchanan. I loved her debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still too!
Date published: 2012-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! What a remarkable historical novel set in 1880s Paris. I could hardly put it down. Cathy Marie's knowledge of ballet is outstanding. I like how she has woven the story of the Van Goethem sisters' struggle for survival in a poor district of Paris with the setting of the Paris Opera Ballet. The relationship of the sisters is heart warming. Cathy Marie, keep up the excellent work.
Date published: 2012-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down. 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 work of ballet. Heartbreaking, lyrical, beautiful and a very satisfying read.
Date published: 2012-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mesmerizing I absolutely loved this novel. The book is written from the point of view of two sisters in Paris, 1878. Often when there are two voices in a book I will gravitate to one and find myself rushing through the other. This was not the case with this novel. Both Antoinette and Marie's voices were compelling and their stories equally heartbreaking and captivating. I will never look at a Degas painting or sculpture or attend the ballet without thinking of this book and the characters that came to life between the covers. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2012-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Page turner, heart wrencher — prepare to neglect your family until it's done. I managed to get my hands on a proof of this fantastic book. Lucky me! My joy at reading it almost outweighed by my sadness when it was over. It was hard to say goodbye to the characters — so masterfully drawn. The vibrancy of the colours and the textures knocked my socks off. The smallest details painting the clearest picture of the day-to-day life of a family struggling to stay afloat (on so many levels) in 1880's Paris. Makes me want to see Paris again, revisit Degas' work, see a ballet, but mostly call my sister to tell her how much I love her. She nailed sibling love in a way that makes me all weepy. It’s a beautful book.
Date published: 2012-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down! I just finished an advanced copy of this book. Wow! Be prepared to be fully engaged. Once I began, I found it hard to put down-much to the annoyance of my husband & kids. This is a deeply moving story about the lives of two sisters in 19th century Paris. The author brings the emotions of the characters to life-I felt their shame, their despair, their disbelief, their hope. I am not so interested in ballet, but I found myself enjoying the descriptions of dance in the book because they evoked just such emotion. I loved Ms Buchanan's first book, THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL and I found this one very different and loved it even more. A great read for anyone interested in historical fiction, particularly of this time period.
Date published: 2012-09-04

Editorial Reviews

“Beautiful and haunting. From the first page, I was swept up and enchanted.”