SDR Book of the Week: The Painted Girls
My first introduction to Degas was through White Collar. Even with that in mind, I am always fascinated with authors who expand on moments in history. Degas was known for painting dancers, so it seems fitting that the main characters of Cathy Marie Buchanan’s latest, The Painted Girls, are three ballet-aspiring sisters.
Antoinette, Marie and Charlotte van Goethem come from a difficult home life. Whatever money they or their mother do put together is immediately squandered away on absinthe for their mother. In order to eat they must set money aside for bread. Meat is a luxury.
Antoinette has tarnished herself with the Paris Opera, and must audition constantly to dance in the chorus for individual theatre productions. She comes across Emile Abadie, a boy with an edge who shows interest in her. Even given his colorful past, and present, he offers her a hope that she will rise above her current situation, and she is determined to hold onto that.
The Painted Girls, as it relates to Marie, tells the story behind Degas’ statue, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.” Honestly, I wished there was more of this story. The rest of the book is good, good enough to earn a coveted Kirkus star, but I was drawn into Marie and her subtle romance with the artist Degas. He draws many girls, but he has shown a specific interest in her, and she becomes his little star.
There’s something intriguing about Paris, especially in literature, and The Painted Girls is no exception. It’s beautifully written, entertaining to read, and gives an imaginative depth into a moment of history, highlighting a story in time, and establishing it in our lives forever.