Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

I just finished listening to this on audio and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Unfortunately this won't be much of a review because audiobooks are so difficult to go back and reference; they leave me with a *feeling* for the story and so that's all I've got to go on.

I've never had much interest in ballet, but Paris! History! Art! all these other things I love are right here within the pages, so how could I not enjoy this? It's a coming-of-age story, which I keep swearing off again and again, but alas, there always seems to be one more book crying out to be read. Aaanyway, The Painted Girls is based on actual people and events, which I realize now, for me, is the catch. I already have an inclination toward historical fiction, but when paired with non-fiction all bets are off and I must at least have a closer look read. The characters are well developed and the story moves along at a decent pace with satisfying conclusion. The audio version was very good but I imagine the print version would be just as good.

4/5 stars

A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Epoque Paris. 1878 Paris. 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 absinth bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, 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 Fourteen. There she meets a wealthy male patron of the ballet, but might the assistance he offers come with strings attached? Meanwhile Antoinette, derailed by her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie, must choose between honest labor 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, if not survival, lies with the other. (back cover)


Mystica said...

I really want to get to this book but there are so many reserves on this one I will just have to wait!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I need to try this one, it does sound good.

Trish said...

I hope get a chance to read this! The characters are staying with me days after finishing, which is the sign of a good book.

JoAnn said...

I love it when real people/events appear in a work of historical fiction... this sounds like a winner!

Cathy Marie Buchanan said...

Thanks for the review. I'm glad you enjoyed The Painted Girls. I have only listened to snippets of the audio book, but I have had so many lovely comment from readers about it. Perhaps on my next long drive.

Trish said...

JoAnn - I know, right? This one really came together nicely for me.

Cathy - Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the internet. It was a pleasure to listen to your book and I certainly hope you'll be writing more.