A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris.
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.
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.
See the art described in the book HERE.
Read an interview with the author HERE.
"One of my favorite things in the world is a great book that thrusts me into another world. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan does just that. Buchanan's writing very quickly swept me up and thrust me into the dusty streets of Bohemian Paris.
This story is focused on the Van Goethem sisters. A trio of young girls struggling to survive after their father has died and their mother had taken to the little green bottle. In this time of destitution, the girls push their way into the Parisian Ballet and onto the Opera stage to make ends meet. This is when Monsieur Degas enters their lives, drastically changing them forever.
This novel did an excellent job of showing both the beautiful and the disgraceful sides of Paris during a time when being a part of the arts was more lucrative than most professions, excluding prostitution, of course. Buchanan's story of the sisters and Degas was one of those stories you can't put down, but then hesitate to read that last chapter because you aren't ready to leave the world the author has created. I loved this book and have already added The Day the Falls Stood Still (another Buchanan book) to my reading pile."