Received: Received from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest reviewRelease Date: January 22, 2013
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A gripping novel set in Belle Époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era.
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 Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous young man—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. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in 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 affair derails her completely.
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.”
When I was pitched this book that was inspired by Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen I was in love. I am always a sucker when it comes to books about ballet dancers (as I used to be one myself) and the fact that this one takes place in Paris, just got me jumping for joy.First I have to say how beautiful this cover is, I absolutely love the color of it and the statue of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. I have always been a fan of Degas, his painting are beautiful and real (and I always had a thing for pictures of dancers). Okay, now onto the story itself.
The story follows the lives of the van Goethem sisters, and is told from the perspective of two of the three (Antoinette, the oldest child and Marie, the middle child). It was interesting seeing these two complete oppostie people in the same situation, and hearing their different voices and thoughts on what and why things are happening, and the two different views on life. The one thing I really would have liked that from this book is a point of view of Charlotte at times, because she was at a different stage, it would have been interesting to get to know her better (though it could have also been too disjointed of a story....).
What really made this story different is how it doesn't take place in a Paris that we know and love, this is a seedier Paris where the characters are struggling against all odds to make ends meet. I loved that this story takes readers to a dark place and yet it is still such a magical story. These two girls go through quite a lot for such a young age to help keep their family strong, and each has their own way of showing strength.
Buchanan does a beautiful job of showing the differences between these two sisters, and really making you feel for the characters, showing off how difficult it is to rise in the dance world when you can't pay for it. This book has been a hot topic for weeks and it is understandable why. With Buchanan's writing I can see this book being around for a while!
Learn more about Cathy Marie Buchanan and The Painted Girls at the Harper Collins Canada Website.