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January 2013 Indie Next List
“At the end of the 19th century, Paris was the center of the world for all arts, and humanity struggled with massive changes in the very structure of society. Degas and Zola were players on this stage as were three sisters who aspired to the world of ballet. Based on historical figures and incidents, this novel delivers great atmosphere and fully realized characters who weave through the harsh yet rich tapestry of the times and tell a story of family, romance, degradation, and fulfillment.”
— Karen Frank, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris and the young woman forever immortalized as muse for Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.
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.
About the Author
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 captivating story of fate, tarnished ambition, and the ultimate triumph of sister-love." --The Washington Post
"Deeply moving and inventive... Buchanan's evocative portrait of nineteenth-century Paris brings to life its sights, sounds, and smells, along with the ballet hall where dancers hunger for a place in the corps... But nothing is more real or gripping than the emotions of Marie and her older sister Antoinette... Their tale is ultimately a tribute to the beauty of sisterly love." --People
"The ethereal ballerina from Degas's famed sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen comes to life in this richly imagined novel. Amid the glamour of tutus and art emerges a surprisingly gritty story of survival in the gutter of Belle Epoque Paris." --Entertainment Weekly