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The Painted Girls

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  34,438 ratings  ·  3,178 reviews
1878 Paris. 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 seventeen francs a week, she wi ...more
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published January 10th 2013 by Riverhead books/Penguin USA (first published December 18th 2012)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,438 ratings  ·  3,178 reviews

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Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-reads
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
Angela M
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cgca-2013-14
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
Heidi The Reader
Three sisters live in poverty. Their father is dead and their mother is addicted to absinthe.

They have to find a way to feed themselves. The Paris Opera is an option, but ballet is expensive. There's lessons and clothing to buy.

And whatever money they do manage to scrape together, there's no guarantee their mother won't use it to buy another bottle to feed her addiction.

The Painted Girls is about the haunting specter of abject poverty and addiction, but it is also about phrenology, a now-defunct
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Carrie Mansfield
Jan 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Vincent Lam
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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
Oct 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
“The Painted Girls” has all the elements which would seemingly hold my attention: ballet, art, history, and some drama. Sadly, my long-awaited excitement 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 m
Susan Vreeland
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Diane S ☔
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Megan Baxter
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have been making a self-conscious effort to keep reading some bestsellers, mixed in among my other lists. I like knowing what people are reading, and increasing my chances of being able to discuss books with anyone I meet. Given that a lot of what I also read is obscure, classics, or science fiction, it seems like a necessary ingredient in my overall reading mix.

It has also, on occasion, been disappointing. I've read those books that make me arch an eyebrow and go "Wait, this is a bestseller?
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mar-15
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a combination of fiction and non-fiction with the characters of the 3 sisters and Edgar Degas, of course, being real people.
This is not a happy book but one filled with rich details of the time period and the every day lives of the two oldest sisters, Antoinette and Marie. Their struggles are heart-breaking, they are both so different yet so bonded, and they are unforgettable in their love for one another.
The book contains some salacious scenes used t
♥ Marlene♥
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
lucky little cat
At first I was simply delighted that a fictional backstory for Edgar Degas' model for "Little Dancer, Fourteen Years" exists.
This novel mixes facts from Degas' life plus lots of historically-based insight into the career prospects of les petite rats de l'Opera, those skinny little teen waif dancers. (Prospects were poor: the tiny dancers were impoverished, underfed, overworked, and especially vulnerable to exploitation by male "patrons.") But ultimately the novel is disappointing b
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
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars
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
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ellen Teth
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
Colleen Turner
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Beverley Cooper
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Nicole R
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
This story of three sisters is told by two of them - 13 year old Marie and 17 year old Antoinette. The story of the youngest one, Charlotte, is revealed through both older sisters. It is set in Paris. In 1878 suddenly their father dies, leaving them with a drinking mother. Marie quits school and gets a job at Paris Opera, where Antoinette already works as extra.

Master Edgar Degas is a frequent observer at ballet practices to pick models for his paintings. He notices Marie’s skinny shoulders and
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
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 just ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
RoseMary Achey
Apr 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 peop
Rachel Aranda
This is a 3.5 rating for me.

Marie van Goethem, was the model for Edward Degas's famous sculpture 'Little Dancer Aged Fourteen'. ‘The Painted Girls’ centers around Marie van Goethem and her older sister, Antoinette who live with their mother and younger sister Charlotte, all of them working to put food on the table. Although there are some who work harder than others. All three sisters have been blessed with the talent to dance and hope to use this talent as a way to break free from their difficu
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New York Times bestseller and book club favourite Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of three novels.

Her most recent, Daughter of Black Lake, was chosen as a Best Fiction for Fall by Entertainment Weekly and Parade magazine. Her previous novel, The Painted Girls, was a New York Times bestseller, a #1 national bestseller in Canada, and was named a best book of the year by NPR, Good Housekeeping and

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