The Painted Girls: A Novel
Cathy Marie Buchanan
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris and the young woman forever immortalized as muse for Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.
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.
is overdue by an hour, which is getting to be usual for her, and tomorrow is the day Monsieur Degas expects me after class. I can wait no longer to seek a bit of advice and crouch beside Maman on the mattress, arms cradling my knees. “There is a painter,” I say. “Madame Dominique lets him watch our class.” Maman looks up at me with woolly eyes. “He said my face is interesting.” “You got the mark of my dearest.” She rolls onto her back. “He wants me to model,” I say, cutting her off from
she is always brushing up against the authentic laborers, even Busnach, in the corridor when there is no need. Just the other day, she puffed up her chest and gave herself a little stroke. “Like peaches,” she said to Pierre Gille. “Sweet on the tongue.” “I like to watch the play,” I say, and it is true. After the washhouse tableau comes the descent of the laborers tableau, with a river of workmen coming into the city from the heights of Montmartre and Saint-Ouen. It is where Émile—a mason—first
of breath. There is something words cannot explain, a moment of rapture, a moment of crystal clearness. I know the miracle of life, the sorrow of death, the joy of love, and I know none of it is any different for a single soul in the world. Oh, how I want the moment to last. But then Rosita Mauri is whirling across the stage, and the second set of the quadrille is retreating to our waiting spot amid the cottages and shrubbery. And, oh, I want that moment back. I want that moment again. Did
says he don’t have a sou to spare. The walls, the ceiling, the blood-dripping chandelier grow close, and I shift the weight of the arm of Jean Luc Simard, move like a snail, bit by bit, until my feet reach the floor. I pour water from a pitcher dotted with tiny blue roses into a basin ringed with the same, make a cup with my hands and drink. I run wet palms over my face. In the looking glass beyond the basin, my wet lashes are clumped together, appearing like the points of a star. I blink those
ditch the lineup, figuring that boy cannot have got much past the back gate of the Opéra. But outside there is no sign of him. “Dunce,” I say. Now it is back to waiting all over again in that miserable line of Monsieur Leroy, but as I turn back to the Opéra, there is the winking boy, leaning up against the wall, his foot propped behind him and a home-rolled smoke hanging from his lips. He winks, and I wink back. He pulls on his smoke. “I like a girl who winks,” he says. Looking to the scuffed