The Painted Girls
Usually I go to the book store with a purpose, I know what I want to get and I get it. In the past year or so I have allowed myself to browse more and I have come across a couple gems by accident. "The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan is definitely one of them. I am only about half way through but I needed to write about it. Now I'm not saying you need to be a ballet dancer to understand this book but at times it certainly helps. Even I had trouble visualizing the dance combinations and steps written on the pages before me. However, understanding these steps are not imperative to understanding the story.
The Painted Girls is set in the late 1870s and moves into the early 1880s and is centred around the van Goethem family. The father past and the mother surrendered to drink leaving the three van Goethem sisters to fend for themselves. Antoinette, the oldest of the sisters was kicked out of the Paris Opera where she was a dancer and forced to find work as a walk-on part in another theatre as well as work in the washhouse with her mother. Having taught her sisters all she knew about dance Antoinette encourages her two sisters Marie and the youngest Charlotte to join the Paris Opera in hopes of eventually joining the ballet. While Marie is working hard at picking up extra jobs such as modelling and kneading dough to pay for private dance lessons Antoinette gets mixed up with the wrong crowd and seeks love from a dangerous boy.
This piece so far is very captivating, maybe because I appreciate the element of dance but maybe there is much more to it. I hope to write a full review when I'm done but I just couldn't keep this book to myself for much longer.
★★★★★ out of 5
About The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananParis, 1878. 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 Opera, 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 modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged 14. Meanwhile, Antoinette, derailed by her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie, must choose between honest labour 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-her survival, even-lies with the other.