The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan is our June 2020 book

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Set in 19th century France, The Painted Girls follows the two oldest van Goethem sisters who, after the death of their father, find their family struggling to make ends meet.


Their mother works cleaning laundry but spends her meager earnings on her absinthe addiction.


Marie and her younger sister Charlotte soon join the Paris Opéra, where they are paid a low wage to train as ballet dancers. Their oldest sister Antoinette also works in theater, as an extra in performances.


Marie works hard at her ballet training, and eventually finds herself modeling for the artist Edgar Degas, who bases his sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” on her image.


As the van Goethem family struggles to survive on their practically nonexistent wages, Marie and Antoinette each face a similar dilemma.


Marie could accept assistance from a wealthy ballet patron.


But what would he expect in return?


Antoinette faces the choice of hard work for little pay or the only higher paying work available to poverty sticken women in 19th century France.


But at what cost to her wellbeing?


By telling the stories of the van Goethem sisters, this book paints a vivid picture of the 19th century Paris slums and the stark contrast between the lavish, glittering theater productions and the real lives of the young performers.


If you'd like to read The Painted Girls, the ebook, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover are all available on Amazon.


You can also find this book at:



Painted Girls is poignant and beautifully written, but it is worth noting that this book goes into quite a bit of detail about some of its darker themes. If you would like to read a lighter retelling of the same story (the lives of the van Goethem sisters), consider reading the young adult novel Marie, Dancing instead.