Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchannan

A poverty-stricken trio of sisters who come of age in 19th-century Paris and inspire the artist Edgar Degas; that was enough to hook me into reading The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Actually, I listened to the Blackstone audiobook, even though I own a paper copy, because I loaned the book to a friend in order that she could read it in time for our book discussion last night. (There are currently 113 holds for it at the Edmonton Public Library.)

Three narrators -- Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan and Danny Campbell -- contribute to the audio production, which I downloaded via the library's subscription to Hoopla. It's 12.5 hours long and kept me enthralled.

Buchanan centers her story on a real person, Marie van Goethem, who posed for Degas' famous statue, the one called Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. (See art images mentioned in the book on the author's website.) Marie and her sisters are realistically portrayed, scrabbling to survive in their miserable situation. Fierce bonds of love, their dreams for the future, and the disillusionment of betrayals make for an emotional tale. At our book discussion, we agreed that the happy ending was implausible, but the alternative would have been very sad indeed.

Readalikes: The Little Shadows (Marina Endicott); Les Miserables (Victor Hugo).

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