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A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque
Paris and the young woman forever immortalized as muse for Edgar
Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.
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.