Saturday, October 12, 2013

Read-athon Update: The Painted Girls

I have completed my first book in the read-athon!!  Of course it helped that I  started the book about three weeks ago and read about a third of it prior to this morning.... but I still read about 210 pages in about 2.5 hours.

The book I read was The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan.  I selected the book because it is historical fiction that takes place in the same time period as my upcoming NaNoWriMo piece.  I was hoping to glean additional insight into the time period as well as the characters to help me flesh out my own story.

Original Wax Statue
National Gallery in DC
The book focuses on the Van Goethem sisters, Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte: Marie being the model for the well-known Degas sculpture, Little Dancer at age fourteen.  The book is written in the alternate voices of the older sister Antoinette and the middle sister Marie.  While all three girls were a part of the Paris Ballet, Antoinette was eventually asked to leave, which left her with few career options:  a life of laundress, like her alcoholic mother, or a life of prostitution.  She experiments with both and at one point is imprisoned for stealing money from one of her "clients"

Marie remains in the ballet corps for a longer period of time, finding a patron willing to supplement her meager earnings for modeling favors.  Marie has talent and a future in the ballet, but in this fictional narrative she makes an emotional decision that causes her undo stress.  Eventually she is also fired from the corps because she is absent from too many rehearsals.

The younger sister Charlotte is the one with the most promise and she does eventually go on to succeed as a prima ballerina and then instructor with the ballet.

I enjoyed the book from a historical perspective.  The author gave me insight into the everyday life of the lower class.  I enjoyed how she weaved two non-fiction stories into one that created romance, suspense, and conflict.  She did a nice job of developing two different narrative voices:  Antoinette is not as well-educated and a bit more bold and hardened by life; Marie is smarter, wiser and more compassionate.

The book is true to the time period, I believe, and because these ballerinas came from the seedy side of town, there are a few graphic scenes that would make this book geared to adults rather than teens, in my humble estimation.

All in all, I would rate the book 3 out of 5 stars and am quite appreciative of the writing talent and detailed research that the author provides her readers.


  1. Haiku -

    Read-A-Thons are fun
    Snacks with books are dangerous
    Read harder! Read More!

  2. Hope you're still doing well there. Have any good snacks while you're reading all those letters?

    Here's a little inspiration for you:

    “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
    ― Oscar Wilde

  3. Back again - just checking in. How's your stack coming along? Any favourite's that you'd like to mention?

    I'm on Infinite Kung-Fu - not really a serious read, but nicely entertaining. :)

    Another quote to keep you going:

    “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.”
    ― Joyce Carol Oates

    #TeamFox (of all things cheering)