Reviews for Painted Girls
Booklist Reviews 2012 December #2
Buchanan's exquisite historical novel details the lives of would-be ballerinas Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte van Goethem. Responsible for fending for themselves after the death of their father and the absinthe-soaked decline of their mother, the van Goethem sisters struggle to eke out an existence while subsidizing their ambitions at the harshly competitive school of the Paris Opéra. When Marie is selected by Edgar Degas to pose for his future masterpiece, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,and Antoinette snags a bit part in the stage adaptation of Ã‰mile Zola's L'Assommoir, the extra income enables them to avoid, for a while, the tragic pitfalls of life on the lower slopes of Montmartre. To make things even more interesting, Buchannan links the sisters' stories with that of convicted criminals Emile Abadie and Michel Knobloch, the subjects of Degas' Criminal Physiognomies. By intertwining the narrative threads of these drawn-from-history characters, she paints a realistically robust portrait of working-class life in late nineteenth-century Paris. Guaranteed to appeal to fans of Tracy Chevalier, Susan Vreeland, and Melanie Benjamin. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #2
Buchanan (The Day the Falls Stood Still, 2009) brings the unglamorous reality of the late-19th-century Parisian demimonde into stark relief while imagining the life of Marie Van Goethem, the actual model for the iconic Degas statue Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Marie is the middle Van Goethem sister, the plain one who loves reading. Seven-year-old Charlotte has the looks and charm, while street-wise 17-year-old Antoinette is burdened with raising her sisters because their widowed mother spends most of her meager income as a washerwoman on absinthe. Kicked out of the Paris Opera ballet school but earning a little as an extra, Antoinette arranges for Marie and Charlotte to enter the school--dance is a way to avoid working in the wash house. Soon, Marie attracts the attention of the painter Degas. When he asks her to model for him, she jumps at the chance, both for the money and the attention. Through Degas, she meets Monsieur Lefebvre, one of the wealthy men who "adopt" ballet students of promise. Soon, she is able to quit her part-time job at the neighborhood bakery where she has captured the heart of the owner's son. Meanwhile, Antoinette gets a tiny part in Zola's controversial play L'Assommoir and falls in love with another extra, Émile Abadie. As the story progresses, the sisters come dangerously close to self-destruction. Buchanan does a masterful job of interweaving historical figures into her plot, but it is the moving yet unsentimental portrait of family love, of two sisters struggling to survive with dignity, that makes this a must-read. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #1
The struggle of three sisters in 19th-century Paris blossoms into the rich history of Marie van Goethem, model for Edgar Degas's controversial statue, Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, in Buchanan's new novel (after The Day the Falls Stood Still). When their father dies, teen sisters Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte are left to fend for themselves, since their mother's meager wages often dissolve into absinthe. Knowing their best chance for advancement lies in the ballet, Antoinette, an extra at the Opéra, get her sisters auditions. Both are accepted as "petit rats," but to everyone's surprise, bookish Marie actually shows talent for dance, and pays for food and private lessons by modeling for the mysterious Edgar Degas. Meanwhile, Antoinette, who has been guardian to her sisters, begins a love affair with Ã‰mile Abadie, a young man of questionable character. As Marie's modeling for Degas leads to the interest of a patron of the ballet, Ã‰mile is arrested for the murder of a local tavern owner, driving a wedge between the devoted sisters. Though history loses track of Ã‰mile Abadie, implicated in three murders, and Marie Van Goethem after Degas's statuette is criticized as "ugly" with the "promise of every vice" on the girl's face, Buchanan captures their story in this engrossing depiction of belle epoque Paris. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, WME Entertainment. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC