The Painted Girls looks at belle epoque Paris through the eyes of the teenage student dancer who modeled for Edgar Degas's sculpture The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. It was inspired by the true story of the van Goethem sisters of Montmarte and follows Marie, a struggling ballet dancer, and her older sister, Antoinette.
They are left with only their alcoholic mother to care for them after the death of their father and simply surviving is a challenge. To earn money for food and shelter, Marie enrolls in dancing school. All the students work to outshine the others in an effort to attract abonnés, rich men with an interest in dancers. But Marie attracts Degas, who asks her to model for him.
The soul of this novel is the relationship between the sisters, the love that binds them as they live through tragedy and the way 19th century Paris and the world of ballet is described. Fans of Tracy Chevalier, Susan Vreeland, and Melanie Benjamin will find much to enjoy here.
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