Book Review : The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

January 21, 2015 Book review 8 ★★

I saved this book as my special read for Christmas day as I thought I was going to love it.  It is a fictional story about the Degas’s sculpture,  Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.  Paris, ballet and Degas what could go wrong?  Unfortunately, a lot!

Book Review :  The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Published by Penguin on January 10th 2013
Genres: Dance, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris.1878 Paris. 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 seventeen francs a week, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.  Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modeling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. There she meets a wealthy male patron of the ballet, but might the assistance he offers come with strings attached?

Meanwhile Antoinette, derailed by her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie, must choose between honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.” In the end, each will come to realize that her salvation, if not survival, lies with the other.

First Line of The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan:

“Monsier LeBlanc leans against the doorframe, his arms folded over a belly grown round on pork crackling.”

My Thoughts on The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan:

This is one where all things I love are woven into the storyline and I thought it would be a sure fire winner for me.  But ultimately as I was reading I was bored.   The writing wasn’t my style; it was too distant for me and just didn’t sustain my interest.

I couldn’t connect to the characters as I felt there was a barrier between us.  I didn’t love them or hate them.  I just didn’t care.  Their lives are really interesting and sad but there is a lot repetition and trivial detail and I got frustrated.  It focuses on two sisters – Marie and Antoinette – and switches point of view frequently between them.  Marie is the girl in the Degas sculpture and I love the concept for the book just not the execution.

When I think back on the storyline, it is fully fleshed out and I liked the story.  So I think it was mainly the writing style and pace that were the turn offs for me.  I did actually put it aside as a DNF but then I kept wondering about how the story ended.  So I skimmed it right to the end just to satisfy my curiousity.

Before I started I was expecting this to be more like Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier which I adored.  That book took a piece of art, then weaved fictional stories around the actual characters and made it zing.  The Painted Girls is just so flat in comparison.

Overall just not for me.   I often don’t like literary fiction and I feel this book falls heavily into that category.  The style is just too dull and slow paced for my taste.  So much for my Christmas treat read and this is the second year in a row this happened for me.  Fingers crossed next year will be a charm!


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: two-stars


 Who should read The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan?

If you like historical fiction and literary style writing, then you might have more luck with this book than I did.  Or if you adore dance books like I do, then you might also want to try it but do be prepared to wade through lots of repetitive detail.



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8 Responses to “Book Review : The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan”

    • trish

      I know *cries* it sounded like it would be amazing! But that’s the thing with books, you just never know until you read them.

  1. Danielle

    Aww! No way, this sounds like total Trish bait! If I wanted to capture you (ya know, if you were like…*tries to think of word that doesn’t make me sound like a stalking psychopath* a cute kitten *nope dani, why would you want to capture a kitten!!* ummm a chicken! *just give it up already* okay my point is that this sounds like the perfect book for you and I’m sad it was a fail. Going to hide in a corner now! *zooooooms*
    Danielle recently posted…Island Escape by Viv Daniels | Review

    • trish

      Haha…it would be total Trish Bait. But then you’d have a very cross, sad Trish on your hands afterwards. The good news is I’m easily distracted with another shiny book! 🙂

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