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The Painted Girls [Paperback]

Cathy Marie Buchanan
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 397 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (4 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594632294
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594632297
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

CATHY MARIE BUCHANAN is the author of The Painted Girls and The Day the Falls Stood Still. Published January 2013, The Painted Girls has garnered rave reviews and been showered with special attention--everything from selection as a People Magazine pick to designation as a book "People Are Talking About" by Vogue to inclusion in Entertainment Weekly's Must List. Also an IndieNext pick, The Painted Girls debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list and is a #1 national bestseller in Canada. The Day the Falls Stood Still, her debut novel, is a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, and an IndieNext pick. She holds a BSc (Biochemistry) and an MBA from Western University. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she now resides in Toronto.

She'd be happy to skype your book club. For details see

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to be honest. I was really looking forward to this book. And, in fact, had been waiting months for the Kindle version to arrive in the UK.

Belle Epoque? Paris? Degas? However, I really didn't like it at all. The use of language was quite lovely, almost mesmerising at times. It was, unfortunately, hugely depressing, filled with despair and hopelessness. If your face didn't fit, if you weren't blessed with lovely facial features, expect to live a brutal existence with no hope of a better life.

And then... suddenly, right at the end, the storyline jumps ahead several years to "and everyone lived happily ever after". What?? Really? Lazy plotting, if you ask me. I don't recommend you waste your time on this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever 20 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a delightful and clever novel with a very unique perspective and focus. Thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn't put it down. The story is about the little urchin girls that tried to beat hunger and poverty by participating in the ballet - their hard work both at the ballet and in doing extra jobs - including posing for Degas! How quickly their dreams would evaporate due to a misstep or a misfortune. A very nice read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting in places 30 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was most convincing in the details of the girls' lives and the difficulties they faced. It showed how hard it was to be female and poor at that time in history. However, the narrative did not always convince and I found the happy ending a little unconvincing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Paris Opera - the dark side 21 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this novel, set in the Paris of Degas. It tells the story of three sisters, one of whom becomes the model for Degas' Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

At times it reads like Balzac but Buchanan gets inside the heads of these three girls and creates an inner monologue that is convincing and often moving.

This is a sordid tales of poverty, desperation, prostitution and exploitation as three young dancers struggle for fame and recognition.
Although it has strong biographical elements ist is essentially fiction and powerful fiction at that. Buy it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  431 reviews
110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of The Painted Girls 10 Jan 2013
By Lydia - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
When I was a little girl I craved books about ballet - scouring the shelves of the library, looking through bookstores, garage sales, and flea markets trying to find anything that would have pictures of pointe shoes, references to famous ballerina's or composers of ballets. I still remember reading a book I found at a garage sale so many times that it literally fell apart in my hands one day (but for some reason I cannot recall the title of it, I just know it was so so good to my nine-year-old self).

I wasn't a big fan of Cathy Marie Buchanan's previous novel, so I approached The Painted Girls with some trepidation. I mean, her writing was sound - but the subject matter in her previous book left me a little, well, bored. That did not happen with The Painted Girls.

Told from two viewpoints, sisters Antoinette and Marie, this is the story of a family who has lost its father, the mother is a drunkard, the oldest sister a foolish girl and the younger one struggling to find her footing. There is a third sister, Charlotte, but she does not receive much of a voice in this story.

Also making an appearance in this book is the painter, Degas, and Buchanan references quite a few of his famous pieces of art to give the story setting and context.

I found The Painted Girls to be a heart-breaking, beautiful story and I walked away feeling like I'd read something that wasn't only interesting, but educational and enriching as well. Buchanan has redeemed herself in my eyes with this subject matter and I'm anxiously awaiting her next project.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and Heart Wrenching 10 Jan 2013
By Holly Weiss - Published on
The tone of the book is set well by this quote from a French daily newspaper that introduces us to the first chapter--"No social being is less protected than the young Parisian girl--by laws, regulations, and social customs" (Le Figaro, 1880).

The book is beautifully rendered. Nineteenth century Parisian ballet is painted with lyrical prose. "Each step must be given a particular character, your hallmark as a dancer." The focus here is not on the rich and the glitter, but rather on the difficulties and challenges of the poor during this period of cultural and societal change. Much is here for lovers of dance, art and sculpture. The author's love for ballet spills over the pages even in descriptions that hint at dance. "...dipping only her toe into sleep." The corridors the book explores are the darker side of ballet, the artwork of Degas, and the survival skills of two sisters thrown into desperate situations.

The Author's Note tells us that The Painted Girls is based on the early lives of three van Goethem sisters: Antoinette, Marie and Charlotte. After their father's death, Marie and Charlotte are accepted into the dance school of the Paris Opera. The eldest sister, Antoinette, already employed there as an extra, Marie models for Degas as he sculpts Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. (Google an image of this sculpture for a better understanding of the plot and the statement Degas made in his sculpture.) Antoinette makes difficult choices between honest work and dangerous love. The book contains some salacious scenes used to depict the depravity of young Parisian girls used in beastly manners by men.

I thank LibraryThing for providing an ARC of The Painted Girls for my unbiased review.

Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, Realistic, Sad 12 Jan 2013
By Tara - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
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 to be successful. And yet, they all become whores. One is a whore to love. One is a whore because in the end, despite all she does, she's left with nothing else. One is a whore in order to succeed, and in the end it's utterly sad.

Though very true to the era it's penned about, I had a hard time with Antoinette's story. She was just terribly dumb in my eyes. The truth was in front of her face so much...but it's amazing what a girl will do to have a man's approval. This book really makes you think of that.

Marie, the trial, the guilt she felt for the decision she made...very gripping.

Vivid. Realistic, sad, and wrenching. This is the kind of book you pick up when you wish to time travel. But it is full of heartache. In the middle, my mind began straying and at times the book lost my interest as it got repetitive, but it hooked me again towards the end.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing! 14 Jan 2013
By Kim Bullock - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The grace on the Opera stage contrasts sharply with the lives of the dancers backstage, many of whom, like Marie and Antoinette, are from the Paris gutters. The Painted Girls unflinchingly contains all the grit and blood of the Paris slums, though it is far more hopeful a tale than novels like Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. The alternating first person point of view plunks the reader right into Marie's tattered shoes or Antoinette's sweat-soaked washhouse clothes. That the narrative is in present tense adds an immediacy to the tale that keeps pages turning. As a mother, my heart alternately ached and swelled for those girls, especially because I have my own "little dancers" - ages eleven and seven. Neither of them will be reading The Painted Girls any time soon, but when they are grown, or at least nearly grown, I will hand them a new copy. My own will probably be as tattered as Marie's shoes by then.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Degas and the "petite rat" 10 Jan 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Degas haunts the halls of the Opera in Paris. He is known for painting the "petite rats" of the ballet corps. Ballet was once a way for the starving and the poor to possibly make their way. One could work their way from the lowest corps to the halls where the abonee went to watch. The abonee were rich older men watching the young girls for a possible mistress. With luck a girl could earn her rent. Petite rats were six. The corps may be eleven or fourteen, but these alliances were not scorned. In fact special salons were built for these patrons, rooms where wives were not permitted.

In this book we follow Marie and Antoinette, two sisters making choices in this underground world. The theory of the criminal physiognomy was newly minted. The heavier skull thought to be that of a criminal. Marie does not have the fashionable face, hers is closer to that of the criminal. Yet she dances like an angel and catches the eye of Degas. Antoinette, ousted from the Opera due to her impertinence must find a way to live herself.

We know Marie goes on to be the famous Degas bronze, The Little Dancer. Today she graces the shelves of many a wealthy little girl cosseted and tutored to the ballet. This book brings us to the world of the Opera, a place where the dancers are convinced that no one would hang a picture of a dancer flat footed at rest. Dance is lyrical for a precious few, for the rest it is survival. The world is fascinating to visit. This book brings it to life.
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