Tuesday, June 18

Book Review: The Painted Girls

Title: The Painted Girls

Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan

Pages: 349

Summary: Paris. 1878. 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 seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work — and the love of a dangerous young man — as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall, I enjoyed the book, it had a good story, some good character development and for the most part it kept my interest, but it didn't exactly live up to the hype the book received. The book quite never captured me and I never got that need to read the devour the book in a sitting.

The story was slow moving, but I think it worked wonderfully for the book, it helped build the characters and ensured the story flowed naturally. Although I did find certain aspects of it, including the ballet practice to be a bit repetitive, it was still interesting to read about, and I think the author captured the day to day life of the sister during the time period exceptionally well. I also enjoyed how the author took equal time to concentrate on each sister and the progress throughout the book. Both story lines interconnected and wove in and out of the other which I enjoyed. Sometimes you were able to see a different view point of an event or the character's behaviour, without that part being retold - and I think it added something to the story.

The author also managed to show each sister's story and development consistently throughout the entire book, working in the twists and keeping the character development and the character's personalities true to the character. Unfortunately, while the characters were well developed, fleshed out characters, I found they weren't exactly likeable or characters I could really enjoy reading about. The trials and hardships they went through were well explored, but something was missing for me to truly enjoy them or want to like them enough to get into the book. I never had that drive to want to read on, to see what would happen with the characters, and how their story would end.

In the end, it was a good read, well worth reading, but it wasn't as extraordinary as I thought it would be.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. I don't think it lives up to the hype it's received, but it was still a good book to read.

What to read next: The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge VI, New Author Challenge


  1. Interesting. I finished reading Painted Girls last night. I only read it to see what the hype was about and I wasn't expecting to like it. I don't like historical fiction all that much and I like to be contrary. But I really liked it. I stayed up way too late reading it. The story was slow, but for some reason it really drew me in. This is not generally the type of book i like, but i was hooked. My review should be up sometime next week.

  2. I'll be interested in your thoughts on the book - I'm glad it worked out so well for you in the end.