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A New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
An Entertainment Weekly Must Pick, January 2013
Selected for the January2013Indie Next List
A Barnes & Noble Best Book of January2013
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Week, January 2012
Paris, 1878. Following the death of their father from overwork, the three van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without their father’s wages, and with what little their mother earns as a laundress disappearing down the absinthe bottle, eviction from their single boarding room seems imminent. With few options for work available for a girl, bookish fourteen-year-old Marie and her younger sister Charlotte are dispatched to the Paris Opera, where for a scant seven francs a week, the girls will be trained to enter its famous ballet. Their older sister, stubborn and insolent seventeen-year-old Antoinette, dismissed from the ballet, finds herself launched into the orbit of Émile Zola and the influence of his notorious naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir—and into the arms of a young man who may turn out to be a murderer.
Marie throws herself into dance, hoping her natural gift and hard work will enable her to escape her circumstances, but the competition to become one of the famous étoiles at whose feet flowers are thrown nightly is fierce, and Marie is forced to turn elsewhere to make money. Cripplingly self-conscious about her low-class appearance, she nonetheless finds herself modeling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized in his controversial sculpture Little Dancer, Aged 14. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society and must make the choice between honest labor as a laundress and the more profitable avenues available to a young woman in the Paris demimonde—that is unless her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie derails her completely.Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, The Painted Girls is ultimately a tale of two remarkable girls rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.” In the end, each will come to realize that her individual salvation, if not survival, lies with the other.
© 2013 by Cathy Marie Buchanan
“A dark valentine to Belle Èpoque Paris.”
“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)
“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
Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been
“Exquisite…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.”
“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’s studio. This one has ‘book club favorite’ written all over
Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters
“Will hold you enthralled as it spools out the vivid story
of young sisters in late nineteenth century Paris struggling to transcend
their lives of poverty through the magic of dance. I guarantee, you will
never look at Edgar Degas’s immortal sculpture of the Little Dancer in quite the same way again.”
Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
“Beautiful and haunting. From the first page, I was swept up and enchanted.”
Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
“Cathy Marie Buchanan’s harsh, realistic story, based on the lives of sisters Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte van Goethem, is enhanced by the understated, unsentimental performances of Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan, and Danny Campbell. The narrators transport listeners to the slums and back-alleys of Belle-Epoque Paris. Campbell reveals Antoinette’s world-weary vision of the Parisian demimonde, the grueling struggle for survival, whether at the Paris Opéra, the washhouse, or the brothel. With vitality, innocence, and heartbreaking naïveté, Whelan voices Marie, a ballet ‘petit rat’ and model for ‘Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,’ by Edgar Degas. Danny Campbell offers a respite from the girls’ travails, reading actual newspaper articles and quotations from the dominant philosophy of the day. Earthy, erotic, always truthful—this is must listening. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”
2 out of 2 (100%) recommend this productWrite a review
An engaging novel sure to captivate historical fiction fans and the many who enjoy a story set in Paris.April 10, 2013The story is told in alternating chapters from the point of view of Marie and Antoinette with occasional interludes about the murders and Emile’s trial. The writing is richly detailed and the subject well-research. While at times depressing and bleak, the story is also captivating with a lush sense of the glory and gaiety of the ballet and the late 1800s Paris. Vivid and striking, the story comes to life.
The audio production, performed by Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan and Danny Campbell, is superb. Cassandra Campbell voices the older, experienced Antoinette while Whelan brings us the younger, less mature, Marie. Danny Campbell narrates the interludes and reads news articles from The Figaro with updates about the murders and the trial of Emile Abadie with a documentary-like style.
Overall an engaging novel sure to captivate historical fiction fans and the many who enjoy a story set in Paris.
A great look at life in the late 1800'sFebruary 22, 2013This was an interesting story with very well done, fully fleshed out characters , and with what I love about historical fiction, it made me go do research so I had Degas’ Ballerina portraits and the little dancer sculpture on my computer so I could look at them while reading. These characters are all very flawed but really just trying to survive the world the best they know how.
The story of these girls was fascinating and I loved the liberty the author took to combine Emil’s story with Antoinette & Marie’s I think it added such a great layer of depth to the story, where if it hadn’t been there, this book would have had less “meat” to it. There is a third sister in this story but to me she was just a secondary character to Antoinette & Marie, yet even though their mother is a smaller part of the story too I really felt her presence whenever she was in a scene, like when she was visiting Antoinette but really she wasn’t there to see her daughter it was just an excuse for a few extra hours off work. I thought this epitomized who this woman was.
This is also a great look at life especially for the poor in the late 1800’s and how once their father dies they have to find work somewhere, there were much worse “professions” than being a dancer or even a nude model for an artist and we all know what that is. These girls don’t have it easy and go through some pretty tough times and tough men. Also the insight into the paintings of Degas that I think everyone has seen even if they don’t realize who the artist is was fascinating, he seems to be one of the few artists that actually had a modicum of success while he was still alive. I have always found his work fascinating because of its day in a life aspects’ so that made his part in this book extra interesting to me.
Cassandra Campbell narrates the older sister and Julia Whelan narrates the younger, both were very good, while their voices are similar (like sisters) but you could always tell which sister was speaking. Danny Campbell’s narration of the newspaper clipping interspersed in the story was at first jarring but once I got used to it he was fine but I do need to comment that his voice is a cross between Casey Kasem and Johnny Heller and at times was a little moviephone sounding but I still liked his voice because it is husky and smoky with a little gravel to it. There is also a couple times where the ladies sound like they are from the streets of NY instead of Paris but when I looked at the print version I saw that this is how the author wrote the speech patterns so can’t really fault the narrators. I guess it was kind of like ok all street waifs sound the same in this time period no matter what country they were from so just go with it. I did like that they went all in on no accents there were a couple times where other characters had a slight accent just a slight rolling of the R’s , but the two main character had the same accent all the way through, it was an American accents but I would rather have that than listening to a badly done Pepe Lepew sounding French accent so I believe the right choice was made on this narration.
I highly recommend this book it is good historical fiction with a little look into the world of Degas, a little mystery and the daily life of the downtrodden of the late 1800’s.
I received this book from Audiobookjukebox and Blackstone Audio for a fair and honest review.