Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Painted Girls

The Painted GirlsParis. 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 Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous
young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece 

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 Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends
lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.

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.”

Loved, loved, loved this book! I have a feeling The Painted Girls is going to make my list of favorite reads in 2013. Blending history and fiction together, Ms. Buchanan has brought the van Goethem girls to life and they leap of the pages of her latest historical fiction.

I read The Day the Falls Stood Still when it came out a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so when I saw Buchanan had a new novel and it was getting really good reviews, I snatched it right up. There are times when a novel seems to just fall in your lap and beg to be read and there is a feeling of giddy anticipation, knowing this book is going to live up to the hype. The Painted Girls did just that.

The Painted Girls is a fictionalized account of Degas’ real life model for his Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Intertwined into the lives of the van Goethem girls, Buchanan also blends the fictionalized account of a murder trial that occurred in the same time period.

Aside from the interesting historical aspect, The Painted Girls tackles issues such as destiny, family and love and asks the question is it possible to become something more than what you were born to or will poor always be poor and rich always rich.

The plot unfolds in the shifting perspectives of Marie and Antoinette. I really liked Marie in the beginning but Antoinette was hard for me to like at first. Somewhere along the way, I found my sympathies switching to Antoinette and disapproving of Marie. Questions were raised along with way that changed my view, what lengths do you go for love or family, security and success.

The historical aspects were just as engaging. The seedy streets of Paris circa 1873 come alive and as you read, are walking the same streets as Marie and Antoinette.  It was really intriguing to read about a murder trial that took place over a century ago and to glimpse the inside of the Paris Opera.

Overall, I think this was a fantastic read and one I would recommend to anyone looking for the next great read. It would make a really interesting book club discussion as well. 

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely adore historical fiction and this one sounds like my kind of read and your review is awesome! DEFINITELY adding this to my TBR
    GREAT review
    Your reader,