Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 368
Released: 2012
Source: Blog Tour
Rating: 5/5


After the death of their father, and the downward spiral of their mother, the Van Goethem sisters are forced to take care of themselves. Most of the burden falls onto their older sister, Antoinette's shoulders. The family is on the cusp of being evicted, and food is scarce. Antoinette encourages her sisters to try out for the Paris opera, if they are selected, they will earn seventeen francs per week to train. Antoinette finds work as an extra in a stage adaptation, and meets Emile Abadie. Their young love pushes Antoinette away from her sisters. Marie tries to make additional money modeling which puts her in uncomfortable situations. Antoinette is tempted by the world of prostitution. Three young sisters try to find their place in the world. Survival is easier for some than others.


The Painted Girls is filled with meticulous research and well rounded characters. Paris during the 1880’s was difficult, and dangerous, Buchanan doesn't spare readers the details. Her style quickly draws readers in, and holds their attention. The sister’s relationship is strained with trying to take care of themselves and each other. Antoinette struggles with being the older sister, and trying to branch out on her own. Their mother drowns herself in absinthe, not caring about the well being of her daughters. Antoinette becomes the head of the house, a role she clearly doesn't feel comfortable with. Mary is determined and ballet becomes her escape, but modeling helps pays for the private lessons. Unfortunately, modeling is long hours and uncomfortable nude poses.

Reading about the girl’s situation was despairing. Their father held up the house, and with his death their relationships crumble. They are bitter towards their mother, and know that they can’t count on her for anything. They have each other, but siblings don’t always get along. They each want their space, and learn to find their way.

This was my first read by Cathy Marie Buchanan and I really want to read her first novel “The Day the Falls Stood Still.” The Painted Girls lives up to all the hype. The historical details and thought put into the novel was very well plotted. Highly recommended!

US Cover


  1. This is the second rave review I've read in the past two days. It sounds really good!

  2. I have not seen this one yet, it sounds great. Thanks for the review, I am going to see if I can pick up a copy!

  3. I am grabbing this book on audio over the next few weeks, and your review has me utterly and totally excited to make it one of my next listens. I love it that the author doesn't shy away from the underbelly of life in France during this time, and it's just the gritty realism that I want to be able to experience. Thanks for sharing your captivating thoughts with us on this one. I need to listen to it quick!!

  4. Another positive review of this book, will definitely be reading it soon.

  5. I have had her first book on my TBR since it was published and have been wanting to read it! I'm excited to hear how this one is too.. I think I need to set some time aside to read her books for sure!

  6. I have her first book, which I lent to a friend who returned it saying it was very depressing. That's why I'm hesitating about this one, but your review is making me think I might give it a try. I like the US cover better.

  7. I got this book from Shelf Awareness and am desperately looking forward to reading it!

  8. Thank you for reviewing and helping to spread the word. Much appreciated. I admit the hype makes me a little nervous. Not sure what I think about readers cracking the cover so full of expectation.

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  11. This novel about Parisian life in the late 19th century feels so right! I felt as if I were standing next to the sisters living their lives with them. Great sense of place and history.
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