Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Painted Girls” as Want to Read:
The Painted Girls
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read excerpt

The Painted Girls

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  21,980 ratings  ·  2,186 reviews
A gripping novel set in Belle Époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era.

Paris. 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,
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published January 10th 2013 by Riverhead books/Penguin USA (first published 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Painted Girls, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Painted Girls

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn11/22/63 by Stephen KingThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Round House by Louise ErdrichI Am Her... by Sarah Ann Walker
Should I bother reading this?
3rd out of 16 books — 76 voters
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakDivergent by Veronica RothThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew QuickMe Before You by Jojo Moyes
52 Books In 52 Weeks - 2013
18th out of 168 books — 183 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
To be quite honest, I have been sitting on my review of The Painted Girls for a few hours as I attempt to collect my thoughts so I can put into words why this book was such a disappointment in my eyes. Set in the late 1800s in Paris, the details of the life, the smells, the streets, the art, and the Opera are stunning; they are the kind of words that can transport a reader to another place in time, so I give Buchanan plenty of praise for that. Then, there are two sisters named Marie and Antoinet ...more
I was fortunate to get an ARC of THE PAINTED GIRLS. It is a brilliantly written historical fiction set in Paris in the 1880's. A story about the lives of sisters trying to make their way through life under less than ideal circumstances. Do the girls have control over their destiny or is it fate that delegates their position in life? Intertwinning the tale of the sisters' lives and true facts from historical documents, paintings, ballets, plays, sculptures, murder trials and more this notion is e ...more
Cathy Buchanan
Apr 03, 2013 Cathy Buchanan added it  ·  (Review from the author)
“This deeply moving and inventive historical novel tells the story of the girl who modelled for Degas, Marie van Goethem, as she and her family struggle to survive crushing poverty and cruel prejudices.”
— People Magazine

“The ethereal ballerina from Degas’s famed sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen comes to life in this richly imagined novel. Amid the glamour of tutus and art emerges a surprisingly gritty story of survival in the gutters of belle époque Paris.” — Entertainment Weekly

“In The Pai
Wendy Pearl's Picks
I'm a sales rep for Penguin Group in Northern California and had the priveledge to read this as a manuscript. I’m completely over-the-moon about this book! Marie, Charlotte and Antoinette got a hold of my heart from the first pages and never let go. Set against the always fascinating backdrop of 1880’s Paris, the plight of these three sisters and what they do to survive results in an incredibly compelling and heartfelt story. Add to that the characters and famous artwork of Degas, the Paris ball ...more
Vincent Lam
This is a magnificent and magical book, which I have been privileged to see in proof form. You will never see Degas' dancers the same way after you read this book.
Susan Vreeland
Here are excerpts from my review in the Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2013:
Edgar Degas’s wax-and-fabric statuette “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” has held the curiosity of millions in its 28 bronze reproductions, but far fewer know the heart-rending history of the model, Marie van Goethem, and her sisters. In “The Painted Girls,” a historically based work of fiction rich with naturalistic details of late-19th-century Paris, Cathy Marie Buchanan paints the girls who spring from the page as vibrantly a
I found this book to be sad and disturbing for most of the story. It definitely does not depict the prosperous time of peace and prosperity of the Belle Epoque. Rather, it depicts the seedier side of Paris ,as the story of Antoinette and her sister Marie is told. There is no prosperity here for these sisters, their younger sister and their widowed mother, addicted to absinthe. These people are starving and can barely pay the rent, and Marie will do what she has to in order to survive.

The author
Original Billith
What did I miss?

Why is this book getting so many rave reviews? This book is cold and clinical. The author does nothing to make us care about Marie or Antoinette. Their mother and Charlotte are so one dimensional that there seems to be little reason for them to even exist except to use them as foils (Charlotte, the one good girl who makes a life for herself with the Opera) or to point to the fate that the two elder seemed doomed to.

I was intrigued by the premise of the interactions with Degas, bu
“The Painted Girls” has all the elements which would seemingly hold my attention: ballet, art, history, and some drama. Sadly, my long-awaited excited for Cathy Marie Buchanan’s novel was popped with a vengeance. After only page 31, I merely can’t go on.

“The Painted Girls” starts off with a slow pace and tempered storyline. Although other reviews make note of this slow start and indicate that the novel improves with time; I simply don’t have the patience to wait that long as nothing caught my a
Diane S.
3.5 Paris in 1873, but not the beautiful Paris filled with beautiful people, but the people trying to survive. The washerwomen, those who take in sewing, those who are hungry and those who will do anything to feed their families. Three sisters, a mother addicted to absinthe, and the girls using ballet as a means to make a little money and hopefully a way to better themselves. This was the part of the novel I liked best, the way the sisters tried to take care of each other. Marie, the middle girl ...more
I was fortunate to receive an advanced reading copy of this book at a conference I attended. This was one of my "I have to stay up and finish reading this at all costs" books. I was drawn into 19th Century France and the beauty of the ballet. When you read a book and feel satisfied and content at the way things turned out, that is my definition of a great book. I was drawn immediately to the characters and the setting and loved them. I loved the author's use of two characters to share two differ ...more
This book starts with a quote from Le Figaro, 1880 "No social being is less protected than the young Parisian girl--by laws, regulations and social customs." And the author goes on to prove that true.

This book melds together a sensational murder and trial with the beauty and love of ballet, the masterpieces of Edgar Degas as well as other period artists, along with the extreme hardships suffered by poor sisters in the 1880s. It tells of these sisters need to be loved by others as well as each ot
Ellen Teth
I had a chance to read advance copy of this book! From the point of view of two sisters in 1878 Paris. The detailed description of sister's experiences are so vivid and fascinating. The author Cathy Marie Buchanan taken us into the lives of these two sisters. Great read!
I was eager to read Cathy Buchanan's most recent novel and was excited to find it offered through the Vine program. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of her previous novel 'The Day the Falls Stood Still' as the first item I ever chose through the Vine. I loved the book and was thrilled to be able to meet the author when she came to my local Barnes and Noble for a reading.

This novel is very different from 'The Day the Falls Stood Still'. Marie van Goethem, was the model for Edward Degas's famous
I was lured into this book by my love of Degas and impressionism in general, but it just fell flat for me.

Marie and Antoinette are sisters living in Paris in the mid-1800's. Their papa died, their maman is a drunk, and they work very hard to take care of each other and their younger sister Charlotte. They all dream of being professional ballerinas at l'Opera. Antoinette has given up that dream to make room for her younger sisters and goes down the path to ruin. Marie catches the eye of Monsieur
♥ Marlene♥
Jun 06, 2013 ♥ Marlene♥ rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with dark minds.
Wow. I really loved reading this book and afterwards it felt like it had been a long time since I really managed to escape because I was so into a book.

Picked this book thanks to goodreads. I thought I was in the mood for a historical fiction and looked at the lists around here. Found a good list where I noticed this book and a few others. Did not know much beforehand, cause lately I prefer not to know a thing before I read a book, but that is quite hard because I do want to know I'm not reading
I absolutely loved this novel. The book is written from the point of view of two sisters in Paris, 1878. Often when there are two voices in a book I will gravitate to one and find myself rushing through the other. This was not the case with The Painted Girls. Both Antoinette and Marie's voices were compelling and their stories equally heartbreaking and captivating. Their story of sisterly love, independence and survival amongst the odds drew me in from the first words on the page. It would be un ...more
Beverley Cooper
I loved this book!
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a richly detailed story portraying the dark netherworld behind the pretty tutus in Edgar Degas’ paintings. The story seamlessly shifts between the perspectives of the two van Goethem sisters, Antoinette and Marie (Degas’ muse for Little Dancer Aged Fourteen). Reading it, I fell completely into Paris, 1879, and the world of the “petit rats” struggling to elevate their lives through the arduous work of ballet. Heartbreaking, lyrical,
I just finished an advanced copy of this book. Wow! Be prepared to be fully engaged. Once I began, I found it hard to put down-much to the annoyance of my husband & kids. This is a deeply moving story about the lives of two sisters in 19th century Paris. The author brings the emotions of the characters to life-I felt their shame, their despair, their disbelief, their hope. I am not so interested in ballet, but I found myself enjoying the descriptions of dance in the book because they evoked ...more
I was thrilled to read The Painted Girls in manuscript, and I loved every page of it. Cathy's wonderful and vivid writing puts you right in the streets of Paris and into the lives of these compelling and memorable sisters. This story will stay with you long after you've finished the book.
Tara Chevrestt
Def giving this points for uniqueness. I learned so much about ballet, opera, Degas, his art. There's a bit of a mystery at the heart of this, but to me, I honestly felt this was a story of women and their never-ending struggle to be loved, respected, and successful. It's also a tale of children not being allowed to be children. It's about a very different time.

Three sisters, each one striving for something. Antoinette wants to be adored. Marie wants to take care of her family. Charlotte wants t
Colleen Turner
I reviewed this book for

The Painted Girls is a phenomenal look at the truth hidden behind the supposed glitz and glamour of the Parisian Ballet. Just like Degas’ artwork, the story highlights the true struggle and ugliness of the poor of Paris during this time of great cultural change and serves to present the story of sisters born in the gutter but wanting nothing more than to rise above what they are told their life must be. It is entirely impossible not to feel for Mari
Christy B
I have been sort of skimming books lately, not really engrossed with any of them. So, The Painted Girls came at the right time. I was completely taken with the story and the voices of the two sisters.

Taking place in Paris in from 1878 to the early 1880s, the book is told from the points-of-view of Antoinette and Marie, sisters. Marie is the subject of Edgar Degas famous statue Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The story is based in fact of the lives of the sisters, and shows how their lives might hav
During the course of listening to this novel, my rating alternated between 3 and 4 stars. It moved a little too slowly for me at times and there was too much repetition, but I'm sticking with four stars because I love the atmosphere and I love the two man characters, Marie & Antoinette.

Buchanan's novel is based in historical facts set in late 19th century Paris. Degas and one of his most famous models are included, as are some famous criminals and authors. Those "real" moments, passages and
This was a good story and the characters were interesting, but for me, something was missing. I can't quite put my finger on it - maybe there was not enough motivation given for the characters' actions.

Also, I read this on my Kindle, and I did not realize until the end of the book that the characters were based on real people. I may have enjoyed it more had I known that. Having said that, much of what happens to the characters is fictionalized in order to link them with other Degas subjects. In
Rose Mary Achey
In the late 1870’s a student of the Paris Opera Ballet dance school named Marie van Goethem modeled for Edgar Degas. Marie was the subject of the famous Little Dancer of Fourteen Years statue. The Van Goethem’s life is fictionalized in The Painted Girls.
Marie lived with her two sisters and mother in a desperate poverty. Author Buchanan has taken the few known facts about Marie van Goethem and constructed the novel around those facts.

Marie’s desire and motivation to escape the wretched poverty
I loved this book!
It was beautifully written and as I listened to the audiobook - perfectly narrated as well.
I think the audiobook format is particularly suited to this story because there is quite a lot of French terminology, and if your French is as bad as mine, then it's so lovely to hear it all pronounced correctly and not 'butchered' as it would be if I were trying to pronounce those words in my head.
I've always been a fan of the ballet and of art, but admittedly I'd never thought much abou
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Paris, 1878. Thirteen year old Marie van Goethem and her younger sister Charlotte are sent by their mother and older sister Antoinette to dance school at the Opéra to be taken on as ballerina students, which will bring in enough money to cover the rent on their one-room apartment in the rue de Douai. Marie, who studied hard with the nuns when her father was alive, knows she has the face and head of a criminal - it's in all the papers, about the small forehead and other features shared by crimina ...more
I was extremely lucky to get my hands on an advanced copy of "The Painted Girls" What a fantastic read. I was so pulled into the lives of the young sisters living in Paris. I have now read Cathy Marie Buchanan's two novels and am patiently awaiting the third!
A gritty and honest look at the trafficking of young girls on the 19th century Paris stage. At times heart-wrenching at other times hopeful, The Painted Girls is compelling from start to finish.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Court Case 1 45 Mar 25, 2014 06:50AM  
52 weeks, 52 books: Week 4: THE PAINTED GIRLS 80 231 Jun 29, 2013 08:10AM  
Article in 'The Painted Girls' 2 129 Jun 08, 2013 01:59PM  
  • Studio Saint-Ex
  • The Emperor of Paris
  • Seduction (Reincarnationist, #5)
  • París
  • A Murder at Rosamund's Gate  (Lucy Campion Mysteries, #1)
  • The Headmaster's Wager
  • Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great
  • The Search Angel
  • The Age of Desire
  • Murder Below Montparnasse  (Aimee Leduc Investigations #13)
  • Above All Things
  • With Violets
  • The Last Runaway
  • Leaving Van Gogh
  • Dancing for Degas
  • By Fire, by Water
  • The Midwife's Tale (Midwife Mysteries, #1)
  • Sunflowers
CATHY MARIE BUCHANAN’s The Painted Girls is a #1 National Bestseller in Canada, a New York Times bestseller, and has garnered rave reviews and been showered with special attention—everything from selection as a People Magazine pick to inclusion in Entertainment Weekly’s Must List to being named a best book of 2013 by NPR, Good Housekeeping and Goodreads. Her debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood St ...more
More about Cathy Marie Buchanan...
The Day the Falls Stood Still Bois de Boulogne: A Short Story

Share This Book

“It is about being born downtrodden and staying that way. Hard work makes no difference, he is saying. My lot, the lots of those around me, were cast the moment we were born into the gutter to parents who never managed to step outside the gutter themselves.” 8 likes
“Willfulness, such as yours, is exactly what a girl needs to raise herself up to do something useful with her life.” 5 likes
More quotes…