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Extended Audio Sample The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,882 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan Narrator: Cassandra Campbell, Danny Campbell, Julia Whela Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Set in 1878 Paris, The Painted Girls: A Novel is historical fiction at its best. When their father dies of overwork, the van Goethern sisters' lives are turned upside down. With only the meager earnings their absinthe addicted mother can manage as a laundress, it appears certain that they will be evicted from their single boarding room. Brainy 14 year old Marie and her little sister Charlotte are sent to the Paris Opera, where they earn a measly seven francs a week training to become one of the famous étoiles. Their sister, sassy and hard-headed 17 year old Antoinette, is dismissed from the ballet, and finds herself under the influence of Émile Zola and his controversial naturalist pièce de resistance L'Assommoir—and in the arms of a young man who may be a killer.

Marie immerses herself in dance, hoping that her innate talent and perseverance will allow her to rise above her circumstances, but the competition to enter the renowned ballet proves too much and she is compelled to look for other work. Despite feeling terribly insecure about her low-class countenance, she becomes a model for Edgar Degas and is immortalized in his famous sculpture, Little Dancer, Aged 14. Meanwhile, Antionette sinks towards the depths of Paris society and is forced to choose between laboring as a laundress and pursuing the more profitable avenues open to a young woman in the city—if her infatuation with the chancy Émile Abadie does not ruin her completely.

Set in an era of deep cultural, societal and artistic transformation, The Painted Girls is, at its core, a story of two unique girls who find themselves remarkably vulnerably to the darkest elements of "civilized society." Ultimately, each will come to the realization that her personal survival and salvation lies with the other.

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the national bestseller The Day the Falls Stood Still, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection and an Indie Next pick. She lives in Toronto.

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. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Richly imagined.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan weaves an all too human story of love and devotion with the life of women in Paris in the late 1800’s, the ballet girls, the Opera, and the art of Edgar Degas…Narration by multiple readers can often turn the audio of a novel into a dramatic presentation rather than the reading of a story. Not so in Buchanan’s The Painted Girls…Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan, and Danny Campbell do a fine job of using a French accent to speak the French words while reading the English clearly. This adds realism but does not impair understanding. This audio version of Buchanan’s The Painted Girls is well done and is a joy to experience.”


  • “Rich…Engrossing.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “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 soul-searing honesty.”

    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 it.”

    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.”


  • Selected for the January 2013 Indie Next List
  • A Barnes & Noble Best Book in January 2013
  • An Entertainment Weekly “Must Read”, January 2013
  • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of the Week, January 2012
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title” in January 2013
  • One of Audible’s Best Audiobooks of 2014: Narrator of the year

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jodi Bowman | 2/17/2014

    " I enjoyed "The Painted Girls". It was a story of three sisters growing up in Paris with very little money. All three are training for the ballet. Wish I knew more ballet terms and also some French. Great story about the bond between sisters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Danica Ramgoolam | 2/12/2014

    " This is a beautiful historical novel based on the ballet dancers depicted in Degas paintings. I loved it mainly because Degas is one of my favorite artists and his paintings/pastels always make you wonder what the stories are behind the dancers. The author painted a vivid picture of early 20th century Paris. She also really expressed the character of sisterly relationships. I would reccomend this book to anyone who has an interest in history, art and well written, heartfelt stories. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Leah | 2/7/2014

    " This book was not for me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Devon | 2/4/2014

    " A good, not terrific read...glad I don't live in 19th century Paris trying to survive in the ballet. "

  • > Show All
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About the Author
Author Cathy Marie Buchanan

Cathy Marie Buchanan was born and raised in Niagara Falls and lives in Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in many of Canada’s premier literary journals. She holds a BSc and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario and is the recipient of grants from both the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council. She is the author of The Day the Falls Stood Still, a New York Times bestseller and Barnes & Noble Recommends selection.