5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, February 7, 2014.
A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris.
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.
Exclusive interview with the author:
1) If Oprah invited you on her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?
Sisterhood—both the rivalries and the profound love.
2) When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs along the way?
I’ve worked as a ballet teacher, as a waitress, on the line at GM, and as a financial analyst at IBM. For me, writing the first draft of a novel has been the toughest of my jobs. I’m not sure I understood how hard—or rewarding—writing would be when I took my first creative writing class (I was in my mid-thirties) and decided I’d found my thing.
3) The Painted Girls is a great title. Who came up with it?
I was down to the wire with no title. I invited my girlfriends over, gave them wine, and told them no one could leave until we had a title. I owe writer Ania Szado for naming the book. I love the title for many reasons: The story’s narrator is based on one of Edgar Degas’s models. I like the gentle suggestion of prostitution. The ballet girls of 1880s Paris were in fact dressed up and painted up to appear other than what they truly were.
4) How did you get the idea for the novel?
The book tells the story of the real-life model for Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. I got the idea when I happened upon a television documentary that focused on the artwork. I would learn about the seedy roots of the Paris Opéra Ballet and the often extreme poverty of the young dancers, including the model for the sculpture. Like most of modern-day society, I assumed ballet had always been a largely high-minded pursuit of privileged girls. I was fascinated to discover otherwise.
5) This would make a great film. Any talk of turning The Painted Girls into a movie?
It has been optioned for a series by the CW Television Network and CBS Television. Dan Jinks (American Beauty, Big Fish, Milk, and Pushing Daisies) has signed on as producer, and Tony-nominated playwright Geoffrey Nauffts (Next Fall) as screenwriter.
About the author:
Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the national bestseller The Day the Falls Stood Still, a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection and an Indie Next pick. She lives in Toronto. Visit Cathy online at CathyMarieBuchanan.com.
5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, Feb 7, 2014.
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