The Painted Girls

The Painted Girls: A Novel - Cathy Marie Buchanan "The Painted Girls" is a fictionalized account of three real women: Antoinette, Marie and Charlotte van Goethem, all of whom were ballet dancers in the Paris Opera (although only the latter made it her ultimate career).The story begins with Marie and Charlotte being taken for an audition by Antoinette ... who meets a young man while waiting for her sisters. This young man, Emile Abadie, becomes an astonishingly bad influence on Antoinette over the course of time as she willing leaves everything she has worked for behind in order to give him what he wants -- most of it not good.Marie, for her part, becomes one of the dancers who inspires Degas; she is the eventual model for his "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" statue.Through Antoinette and Marie, we get a picture of what Belle Epoque Paris was like for the economically disadvantaged; the girls' widowed mother is a laundress, and there is a constant battle over making sure the rent money is not spent on absinthe. In addition to their work at the ballet, Marie works at a bakery and Antoinette (for a time) as a laundress herself. Their poverty is what drives almost every decision. Their determination to get out of their circumstances sometimes leads them into even more dire situations, unfortunately.All of the major characters, including Emile Abadie, are historic persons. The author collapses some timelines and has people meet who apparently never did so ... but she does so to complete the picture she is painting of the Paris' economic underbelly.This is a gripping and well-researched piece of historical fiction. Francophiles, balletomanes and modern art fans are sure to enjoy it, for it crosses all of these areas of interest.(Review based on uncorrected advance proof.)