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The Painted Girls: A Novel by Cathy Marie…
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The Painted Girls: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Cathy Marie Buchanan

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483None21,266 (3.78)27
Member:hollysing
Title:The Painted Girls: A Novel
Authors:Cathy Marie Buchanan
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2013), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Read and owned
Rating:****
Tags:Early Reviewers, 2013 release, Cathy Marie Buchanan, Historical fiction, Jan 10, 2013, Degas, ballet

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The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

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» See also 27 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I listened to this on my iPhone and it's a different experience than reading it but still a pleasure. I've delved into historical fiction as of late and am enjoying what authors can do with a few scant facts! ( )
  obedah | Mar 26, 2014 |
Loose historical novel. Great quick read. Loved it. ( )
  KarenHerndon | Feb 11, 2014 |
Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-painted-girls.html

The Painted Girls is a book that can be read on many different levels.

At the highest level, it is a picture of a time and place in history. It is the late 1800s in Paris - the time of the Paris Opera, of Emile Zola, and Edgar Degas. The book takes literary liberties, combining certain actual events and people to bring them together in one story.

At another level, this book is a story of two young women taking different routes but both trying to find a way out of poverty to a better life. In this, it is the story of Antoinette and Marie as individuals trying to climb out of their life of abject poverty. Antoinette finds a young man and work in the theater but descends further into the "downtrodden." Marie finds some success at the Paris Opera and catches the eye of artist Edgar Degas and becomes immortalized as the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Yet, how successful is either one of them at attaining what they dream about.

At another level, The Painted Girls is the story of family - sisters in particular. Antoinette is the oldest of the three and de facto mother and protector to her younger sisters. Marie is the middle sister, who fears the path her sister has chosen, partially because she fears what would become of her if Antionette leaves. On the periphery is Charlotte, the youngest of the three.

The book alternates between Antoinette's and Marie's point of view. Occasionally, there are excerpts from the newspapers of the time with snapshots of history as they pertain to the story. What is odd is that the reader does not see Charlotte's point of view. If the story is the of these sisters, then I feel that is missing from the book.

The book is dark and sad, but the story is vividly depicted. Some parts of the story are a little slow, but I persevered through them. The ending brings all the stories together and does a little show and tell about what happens to each of the sisters.

*** Reviewed for GoodReads First Reads program *** ( )
  njmom3 | Jan 10, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Fairly good and some of the historical detail was brilliantly drawn, but the chars remained something of a cipher for me and it was hard to engage with them. All in all, not a book I regret reading, but I didn't devour it the way I have other historical novels. ( )
  corglacier7 | Jan 1, 2014 |
This was an okay book. I didn't realize that the painter who did the charcoal of the child was Degas (Day-GAA)I didnt get it til near the end.
This very poor family has several daughters who want to be ballerinas. The realization of how little people can get by without astounds me. These girls are close to starvation! No wonder their mom has given up and turns to drugs for relief from reality.
A sad story that covers a sad time in Paris. The ballerinas train so hard, work 2-3 jobs and hardly ever get food to eat.
( )
  Strawberryga | Dec 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
The Painted Girls is a quick and cinematic read that is hard to put down, destined to be hotly debated book-club fodder across the country...Buchanan’s complete immersion in the time period and setting is obvious, and the reader is quickly present in the city, with its glamour, grit, hardships and peculiarities. An author’s note at the end of the book details exactly what is taken from historical record and what was created or embellished for the story.... It was a drag that this part of the narrative didn’t veer from the obvious, but it’s a small thing. For the overall story is a tremendous achievement, and the book is fast-paced leap around Paris at a unique time in its history.
 
The reader is completely absorbed in the struggle of Marie to rise above her circumstances. It has been said that the great engine of fiction is desire, the terrible urgent want of characters for what they do not have. This is vividly clear in the case of the van Goethem sisters, and that want makes for a strong, suspenseful narrative. The narrative drive is somewhat muted by the author’s prose style, however — her sentences have a tendency to carry just a smidgen too much detail. “Monsieur Degas’s lips press tight, and then his eyebrows pull together, the ends closest to his nose lifting up,” runs a characteristic sentence. Metaphors can also be laboured, as when the “harsh tang of fear” is compared to the “skin of a walnut.” The effect is sometimes of a clotted prose.....The question remains: can Buchanan’s characters defy that milieu and defy the laws of Zola? It is a question left in doubt until almost the last page of this convincing, heartfelt story.
 
Reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier’s novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s second novel tells the fascinating story of the young 19th-century Parisian ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas’ famous sculpture Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. But while Chevalier’s novel (about the inspiration for the eponymous painting) is entirely imaginative, Buchanan’s meticulously researched book is based largely on historical record.
 
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For Larry, always
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Monsieur LeBlanc leans against the doorframe, his arms folded over a belly grown round on pork crackling.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A heart-rending, gripping novel inspired by the real life model for Degas's Little Dancer Aged 14. 

It’s 1878, Belle Époque Paris.  Following the death of their overworked father, the three Van Goethem sisters find their lives upended.  What small pay their mother earns as a laundress disappears down the absinthe bottle, and without their father’s wages, eviction and destitution seem imminent.  With few options for work, fourteen-year-old Marie and her younger sister Charlotte are dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant 17 francs a week, the girls will be trained to enter the famous Ballet.  Older sister Antoinette, age seventeen, has already been dismissed from the Ballet on account of her sharp tongue, but finds employment—and the love of  the dangerous Émile Abadie—acting as an extra in a stage adaptation of Emile Zola’s Naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance, counting on hard work and natural ability to raise her from the gutter, but the competition to become one of the famous étoiles, at whose feet flowers are thrown nightly, is fierce, and she is forced to turn elsewhere to supplement her meager wages.  Though ill at ease with her looks, she is soon enough 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 into Paris society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is unless her love, unwavering even as Émile is linked to a brutal murder, derails her completely.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, and inspired by the real life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged 14 and the era’s most notorious criminal trials, The Painted Girls is a tale of a family of remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.”
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In belle epoque Paris, the Van Goethem sisters struggle for survival after the sudden death of their father, a situation that prompts young Marie's ballet training and her introduction to a genius painter.

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Cathy Marie Buchanan is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Cathy Marie Buchanan chatted with LibraryThing members from Jul 12, 2010 to Jul 25, 2010. Read the chat.

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