The Painted Girls
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
By Cathy Marie Buchanan
Summary: 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.
Review: The Painted Girls tells the story of three sisters living in late 1800's Paris with a Mother addicted to absinthe, a dead Father and a society who predicts failure for them before they have even reached their majority. Antoinette, the oldest meets a very dangerous young teenager, Emile who begins to lead her down a dark path away from her sisters and the world of honest wages and into the world of prostitution, prison, and onto a road that might separate her from her family permanently.
Marie (along with her sister Charlotte who is ten) who is fourteen is sent to the ballet to earn wages and to train to hopefully move up the ranks to eventually become a famous ballerina. While there she attracts the eye of an artist and also takes on modeling for him to earn an extra wage to help feed her family. As the story progresses Marie continues to look for ways to pay for her ballet lessons and feed her family that lead her down dark paths with a patron who says that he will support her but not for free and she finds that she must pay a huge price if she is to continue on with his support. Antoinette also sees the dark side of life for a female in these times as she is thrust into the world of rich men, stealing, and selling her body to the highest bidder.
This book looks at what women in the lower parts of society did to survive and to pull themselves up out of hard places in late 1800's Paris. It's an easily read narrative type viewpoint switching from Marie to Antoinette. It was a very good book and one of my favorites so far this year.