“The Painted Girls” by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a sad novel about sisters in 19thCentury Paris. One of the sisters is chosen to be the muse for  Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.”

Degas Sculpture
The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen – Degas sculpture
Edgar Degas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The Painted Girls” is wonderful book. It takes us into the hidden truths behind the supposed glitz and glamour of the Parisian Ballet.

The story highlights the true struggle of the poor in Paris during the 19th Century, a time of great cultural change. The novel focuses on three sisters, Antoinette, Marie and Charlotte van Goethem. 

A booked inspired by Degas’ sculpture 
“Little Dancer aged Fourteen”

The van Goethems live in the slums of Paris. When their father dies, they have  little money. Their mother, a laundress, squanders their money on her addiction to absinthe.

The author introduces us to Antoinette, the oldest sister who takes over much of the mothering role. She becomes an extra in the ballet school of the Paris Opera and takes additional jobs to get money for rent and food. She also helps her younger sisters get admitted into the ballet school to earn some money.

The chapters alternates between the voices of Antoinette and the other sister Marie. 

Edgar Degas notices Marie and he hires her to model in the nude. Later he introduces her to a man who pays her to”model”.

Sadly, this was common in those times. Rich men would take advantage of these vulnerable ballerinas.

Do you think anything has changed today??

You will feel heart-broken at the hardships that these sisters endured and how vulnerable ballet dancers were in that time.

Edgar Degas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It is a book that keeps you thinking long after you finish reading it. You will never look at Degas’ sculpure or his ballet paintings the same way again……

I highly recommend.To order a copy press here