The painted girls

Cathy Marie Buchanan

Book - 2013

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Subjects
Genres
Historical fiction
Published
New York : Riverhead Books 2013.
Language
English
Physical Description
357 p. ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781594486241
1594486247
Main Author
Cathy Marie Buchanan (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Buchanan's exquisite historical novel details the lives of would-be ballerinas Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte van Goethem. Responsible for fending for themselves after the death of their father and the absinthe-soaked decline of their mother, the van Goethem sisters struggle to eke out an existence while subsidizing their ambitions at the harshly competitive school of the Paris Opéra. When Marie is selected by Edgar Degas to pose for his future masterpiece, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,and Antoinette snags a bit part in the stage adaptation of Émile Zola's L'Assommoir, the extra income enables them to avoid, for a while, the tragic pitfalls of life on the lower slopes of Montmartre. To make things even more interesting, Buchannan links the sisters' stories with that of convicted criminals Emile Abadie and Michel Knobloch, the subjects of Degas' Criminal Physiognomies. By intertwining the narrative threads of these drawn-from-history characters, she paints 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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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, in Buchanan's new novel (after The Day the Falls Stood Still). When their father dies, teen sisters Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte are left to fend for themselves, since their mother's meager wages often dissolve into absinthe. Knowing their best chance for advancement lies in the ballet, Antoinette, an extra at the Opéra, get her sisters auditions. Both are accepted as "petit rats," but to everyone's surprise, bookish Marie actually shows talent for dance, and pays for food and private lessons by modeling for the mysterious Edgar Degas. Meanwhile, Antoinette, who has been guardian to her sisters, begins a love affair with Émile Abadie, a young man of questionable character. As Marie's modeling for Degas leads to the interest of a patron of the ballet, Émile is arrested for the murder of a local tavern owner, driving a wedge between the devoted sisters. Though history loses track of Émile Abadie, implicated in three murders, and Marie Van Goethem after Degas's statuette is criticized as "ugly" with the "promise of every vice" on the girl's face, Buchanan captures their story in this engrossing depiction of belle epoque Paris. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, WME Entertainment. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A tale inspired by the real-life model for Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is set in belle époque Paris and traces the survival efforts of the Van Goethem sisters after the sudden death of their father, a situation that prompts young Marie's ballet training, introduction to a genius painter and patronage by a wealthy man whose assistance comes with a price.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque 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 absinthe 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 modeling 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.