Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Riverhead Books.
Stop by each week to be introduced to a
must-read title from one of my favorite
imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these
books to your wish list.
Frankly, I didn't need much more than ballet, Degas, and Paris to make me want to read The Painted Girls, but add in author Cathy Buchanan, and I knew this novel was going to be winner.
Here's the publisher's summary:
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.Cathy Buchanan's The Painted Girls is not your typical historical novel centered around an artist. Although Degas and his famous ballet pieces feature prominently, this is not his story. Instead, Buchanan focuses on one of his models, using her as a springboard to explore life for the ambitious poor in late-nineteenth-century Paris.
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.
Few families could afford the luxury of allowing their daughters to dance for a handful of francs a week, so many of the girls were forced to take on other jobs to pay for their costumes and lessons as well as to help support their parents and siblings. The trick for the van Goethem sisters, as for many others in their situation, was to find a way to survive without sacrificing their dignity and soul. The novel alternates between Marie and Antoinette's voices and explores the various options open to them, including backbreaking work in the laundry, modeling, and finding an abonné (male sponsor).
The relationship of the sisters is played out against fascinating details of the Paris Opéra and the ballet school, Degas's studio, and life in the poorer sections of the city. Buchanan has done her research, and the personalities of her characters are colored by their circumstances and supported by historical fact.
The Painted Girls showcases Buchanan's strong sense of plotting and attention to setting, giving the novel a wide appeal. You don't have to be a dancer or an art lover to be caught up in the story of two sisters trying to do their best for themselves and their family.
Come back on Monday for a fun and informative Imprint Extra with Cathy Buchanan, who will tell us a little bit more about Degas.
The Painted Girls is an Indie Next Pick for January 2013 and won a Kirkus starred review. For more on Cathy Buchanan, visit her website where you can see images of Degas's work, learn about the inspiration for her novel, and read a Q&A. For more, follow Buchanan on Twitter or like her on Facebook. A reading group guide is available for book clubs.
Riverhead Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, visit the Riverhead website. While there, explore their terrific book list, check out authors in the news, and view some fun videos. Stay in the know by following them on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.
Buy The Painted Girls at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Penguin USA / Riverhead, January 8, 2013
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).