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.
"A wonderful book about real-life sisters from 19th century Paris. One of them is the girl who posed, at the age of fourteen, for the Degas statue Little Dancer at Age Fourteen. The book is ultimately about sisterly love that can supersede all obstacles. These girls are dirt poor, and it shows the extreme measure they need to go through to survive. There is murder, theft, and child sexual abuse that is an integral part of the story, but the essence of Marie and Antoinette's deep caring for each other is deeply moving and very satisfying. The story is told in alternating chapters where Marie and then Antoinette are the narrators. Marie and her sister Charlotte become low scale ballet artist, and oldest sister Antoinette becomes involved with a gruff and violent man. In the end, their shared experiences and deep love help them to triumph over their plight. This is an extremely well researched and beautifully written novel."
Robert (5 out of 5 stars)
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 ├ëmile 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 ├®toiles 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 ├ëmile 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.
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About 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.
About the Narrators
Cassandra Campbell has won multiple Audie Awards, Earphones Awards, and the prestigious Odyssey Award for narration. She was been named a “Best Voice” by AudioFile magazine and in 2018 was inducted in Audible’s inaugural Narrator Hall of Fame.
Julia Whelan is a novelist, screenwriter, lifelong actor, and multiple award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. She is a former child actor who has appeared in multiple films and television shows.
Danny Campbell is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and an actor who has appeared in CBS’ The Guardian, the films A Pool, a Fool, and a Duel and Greater Than Gravity, and in over twenty-five commercials. He is a company member of the Independent Shakespeare Company in Los Angeles and is an adjunct faculty member at Santa Monica College.