Ballet and a man were the great passions of the van Goethem sisters. Marie was a beautiful dancer and loved ballet while Antoinette found a young man she loved desperately. Their great passions ended up breaking their hearts and ruining their lives for a time period. It's what they loved that caused them the most pain. In "The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan, readers journey to Belle Époque Paris and enter the lives of Antoinette, the strong-minded older van Goethem sister who loved with her whole heart and soul and Marie, the ballet dancer that was the inspiration for "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen", the famous work by Edgar Degas.
"The Painted Girls" is the story of the tragic lives of the van Goethem sister. Antoinette and Marie live with their drunk mother and younger sister Charlotte in poverty in Paris. Antoinette who could have been a ballet dancer turns to a dangerous young man of the streets and falls desperately in love with him, ignoring her work, her family, her heart, and her conscience. Marie, convinced she is hideous and has the look of a criminal finds herself having great talent in ballet and works her way up in the Paris Opera. She even catches the eye of the artist, Edgar Degas who uses her as a model for her work "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen". Eventually Marie finds herself the plaything of a wealthy gentlemen who uses her to find pleasure which leaves Marie with even lower self-esteem. Antoinette and Marie struggle with the men in their lives and the society they are in and even find themselves at odds with one another. This is a story about the bonds between sisters, the harsh realities of the poor and darker side of Paris, and of course, ballet.
This is an absolutely beautiful novel. Buchanan makes Antoinette and Marie come to life and having each girl tell their story in chapters of the book really makes the reader get to know each girl. Antoinette and Marie were real life people, but not a lot is known about them. Buchanan adds to their story and makes them come to life even more. Buchanan's Antoinette lies, speaks her mind, and then tragically falls apart for a man not worthy of her while her Marie has little to no self-esteem, but comes alive as a dancer. Antoinette and Marie are truly the heart of the story.
Buchanan also brilliantly brings to life Belle Époque Paris, the glamorous side and the poorer more desperate side. The focus on art particularly the works of Edgar Degas is a highlight of the novel. Readers will feel like they have been transported to Paris in 1878.
"The Painted Girls" is wonderful and will definitely be considered one of the best historical fiction novels of the year. The story has heart, detail, and really comes to life. Whether you're a fan of ballet, art, or just love a good story, "The Painted Girls" will "wow" readers!
To purchase "The Painted Girls": http://www.amazon.com/The-Painted-Girls-A-Novel/dp/1594486247
For more information on Cathy Marie Buchanan: http://www.cathymariebuchanan.com/