04 January 2013

Imprint Friday: The Painted Girls by Cathy M. Buchanan

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.

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.
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.

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
ISBN-13: 9781250013972

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


bermudaonion 1/4/13, 9:58 AM  

Art, Paris, ballet . . . what more could we ask for? This sounds excellent!

Zibilee 1/4/13, 11:13 AM  

I am betting that I would love this one, and the fact that it's not your typical historical fiction really has me interested in what's between the covers here. I am adding this one to my list, and think that your review did a great job to pique my interest. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it with us!

Beth Hoffman 1/4/13, 12:53 PM  

I've had this on my radar since I first heard about it and will be watching for your review.

Barbara 1/4/13, 3:07 PM  

This sounds like my cup of tea. I'd love knowing more about that period of time in Paris.

Robin M 1/5/13, 1:12 AM  

Oh, I want, definitely. Sounds like my kind of story.

Julie P. 1/5/13, 5:39 AM  

I really enjoyed Ms. Buchanon's last novel and I've been anxiously awaiting this one!

Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis 1/5/13, 11:00 AM  

I read The Day the Falls Stood Still a couple of years ago and enjoyed it very much. I must add this title to my TBR wish list.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Stacy at The Novel Life 1/5/13, 12:19 PM  

This book sounds so very good! I love art...love ballet...and fascinating characters! Perfect and now at the top of my tbr list!

Jen Greyson 1/6/13, 8:40 PM  

Wow. this sounds fascinating. I love getting to find these jewels from these smaller imprints. Adding it to my TBR!

Cathy Marie Buchanan 1/8/13, 8:54 AM  

Thank you for your lovely review of my novel. I am particularly enamoured with this line: "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." I just might be quoting you.

Kailana 1/13/13, 10:10 AM  

I started this, but my reading is so slow so far this year! Hopefully I get a chance to get back to it!

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