The Painted Girls

Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks

Date: January 2013

Duration: 12 hours 18 minutes


Paris, 1878. Following the death of their father from overwork, the three van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without their father's wages, and with what little their mother earns as a laundress disappearing down the absinthe bottle, eviction from their single boarding room seems imminent. With few options for work available for a girl, bookish fourteen-year-old Marie and her younger sister Charlotte are dispatched to the Paris Opera, where for a scant seven francs a week, the girls will be trained to enter its famous ballet. Their older sister, stubborn and insolent seventeen-year-old Antoinette, dismissed from the ballet, finds herself launched into the orbit of Émile Zola and the influence of his notorious naturalist masterpiece L'Assommoir-and into the arms of a young man who may turn out to be a murderer.

Marie throws herself into dance, hoping her natural gift and hard work will enable her to escape her circumstances, but the competition to become one of the famous étoiles at whose feet flowers are thrown nightly is fierce, and Marie is forced to turn elsewhere to make money. Cripplingly self-conscious about her low-class appearance, she nonetheless finds herself modeling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized in his controversial sculpture Little Dancer, Aged 14. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society and must make the choice between honest labor as a laundress and the more profitable avenues available to a young woman in the Paris demimonde-that is unless her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie derails her completely.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, The Painted Girls is ultimately a tale of two remarkable girls rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of "civilized society." In the end, each will come to realize that her individual salvation, if not survival, lies with the other.

"The Painted Girls is historical fiction at its finest, awash in period details of the Paris of Degas and Zola while remaining, at its heart, the poignant story of two sisters struggling to stay together even as they find themselves pulled toward different, and often misunderstood, dreams. Cathy Marie Buchanan also explores the uneasy relationship between artist and muse with both compassion and soul-searing honesty."-Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been


  • shawna vail

    Hated it. Bored to death. Too much french and I don't know much about ballet, I suppose if you know ballet then you would like it a lot. I had hoped to learn more about dancing and the dance world but I couldnt get into it.

  • Mandy Webster

    Great book about the culture of the ballet in Paris at the turn of the last century. The painter, Degas plays a pivotal role in the story of three sisters in one family and their struggle against poverty and desperation. It's painful to watch as the girls seems to be caught in a downward spiral, but I just had to keep reading, anxious to see whether or not they will surface on the other side in the end.

  • Michelle Kaatz

    This is an excellent story. The setting and circumstances are based on historical events (artists, dancers and criminals of the time), so there is a strong authenticity to the lives of the characters. The protagonists were both very accessible and likeable. The first third of the book feels like watching two good friends walk out across a frozen lake, seeing the cracks stretch out beneath them but always feeling like they are not too far out to come back safely. The middle third of the book feels like watching those two good friends be swallowed, inch by inch, in sinking sand, and there's nothing you can do. I won't say anything about the last third, but I couldn't stop listening. I finished the book in 2 days.

  • Kristin Barron

    I found this quite wonderful. Very compelling, entertaining, and truthful. It is a window into the world of the petit rats, and in some ways, into the art world at that time.

Painted Girls

by Cathy Marie Buchanan

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Painted Girls, Cathy Marie Buchanan