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The Painted Girls Audiobook, by Cathy Marie Buchanan Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan Narrator: Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan, Danny Campbell Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2013 ISBN: 9781481593243
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)
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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

  • 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.”

  • “Richly imagined.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “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 Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jodi | 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 Danica | 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 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 Devon | 2/4/2014

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Helen | 2/2/2014

    " This book started out slowly and was very depressing. However, I soon got very caught up with the characters so that by the end I could not put it down. I really enjoyed Buchannan's imagining of the life of a Degas ballerina. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sandrapaprocki | 1/26/2014

    " This book brought Paris in the late 1800's to life. It also spoke to me of the enduring love of sisters and the strength we bring each other. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jayme | 1/22/2014

    " Based on real events, imagining the life of the artist Dega's famous 14 year old, ballet dancer... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert | 1/21/2014

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 1/17/2014

    " Imaginative book about the lives behind the famous paintings. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dianne | 1/10/2014

    " 2013-01-31 enjoyed more than anticipated "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angela | 12/10/2013

    " Fast read, loved this book. It had be researching the history once done. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lauren | 11/30/2013

    " With the understanding that the author was going for historical accuracy, this book still was overly vulgar for my taste. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karen | 11/4/2013

    " This book had potential for good historical fiction (ballet dancers, Degas, Paris in the 1870's) but I didn't really like the writing style. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cheri | 10/27/2013

    " FINALLY! I finished the book! The book was was the fault of too much activity that kept me from the book. Too,distracted to concentrate. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elena | 9/20/2013

    " I'd give this 3.5 stars. It dragged in some places, but the historical elements were very interesting. I enjoyed it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Glenda | 9/14/2013

    " This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cindy | 9/10/2013

    " Generally not my genre but it was chosen for me and I very much enjoyed it! Wonderful, rich characters, kept my interest til the last page (even though the ending disappointed ) I highly recommend. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cooky | 7/5/2013

    " This was a magical insight into Paris of the Belle Epoch Era. Fascinating period in history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Agnes | 6/14/2013

    " Excellent read ~ you really care about the sisters, and feel their love and pain. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gisela | 5/2/2013

    " I found the story bland and boring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sophia | 3/15/2013

    " Only a couple of chapters away from the end and simply have to slow down and savor the last few moments. The 14 hear old dancer by Degas has been brought to life and she makes your heart ache "

About the Author

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, winner of numerous Earphones Awards, won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Romance Narration in 2013 and has also been a finalist for an Audie Award in other years. She was named one of AudioFile magazine’s Best Voices of 2010, and two of her audio narrations were shortlisted for the American Library Association’s notable recordings of 2010. Her narration of Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere earned a place in the first round of 2011 Grammy nominations for Best Spoken Word Album. She is a former child actor who has appeared in multiple films and television shows, most notably ABC’s Once and Again. After receiving her college degree, she returned to the film industry and is also a writer.

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.