Published in: 2012
Edition read: Hardcover
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
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.
This book was surprisingly good. I grabbed it from the library based on the cover, and found a well-written mystery about three french girls, the ballet, a mysterious older painter named Degas, and two shady boys accused of murder. I hate to sound naive, but I had never heard of Edgar Degas or seen his paintings before this book, but now I’ve seen a lot of his work as I curiously googled the paintings mentioned in this book, which can be viewed here. I recommend having a look through, the artwork is fascinating. The paintings aren’t what I traditionally like, but I can see how they might capture the interest of people, as Degas has managed to capture moments in time that we might overlook, such as dancers stretching on the barre.
The murders that are intertwined with the story of the young ballet dancers works well, and I was interested to learn that not only are the young dancers all based on real people, but the murders mentioned are also things that actually happened and the characters again based on real people- which is really fascinating.
The Painted Girls rating: 7/10
Would I re-read it? Yes I think I would read this again
Who would I recommend it to? Anyone interested in historic fiction, ballet, the painter Degas
Author’s website: http://www.cathymariebuchanan.com/books/the-painted-girls