Sunday, February 16, 2020

Book Review: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (historical fiction)

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan provides glimpses into the relationship between two sisters growing up in the slums of Paris, France during the late 1800s. Sisterly love--sisterly envy. The secrets they can't share with each other, they share with us. The prejudice they face we witness. 
'I want to put my face in my hands, to howl, for...all the women of Paris, for the burden of having what men desire, for the heaviness of knowing it is ours to give, that with  our flesh we make our way in the world.' (p. 284)
I see you struggling. Starving,  you live in squalor and your future is bleak. But I can sleep easy without lifting a finger to help. In fact, I'm wise not to help because you'd only take advantage of me. Your facial features, they give it away. 

This type of blame-the-victim thinking was known as physiognomies.

Cathy Marie Buchanan's author notes explain that one of the inspirations for The Painted Girls was the discovery that 'Degas bought into the idea that certain facial features hinted at a person's innate criminality and sought to incorporate it into his artwork.' And she wondered, '[h]ow might such perception have affected the lives of his teenage model.' 

Published by Harper Perennial
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Published in 2013

I enjoy shopping for almost all the books I review on this book--mainly at independent bookstores. Occasionally, there are exceptions. I received my copy of The Painted Girls from the HarperCollins. Along with a beautiful and useful beach bag. 

The Painted Girls is alternatively narrated by two sisters--Antoinette and Marie Goethem. Antoinette is the elder by four years. She seems resolved to her fate. Marie still dares to dream. The bleakness of their lives made The Painted Girls a challenging read, but my hope that they would escape the fate that was targeting them and eke out some kind of happiness kept me reading. 

Target reader:  Those interested in French or art history--especially dance or the fine arts.

February 19th is...

'a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people.' 

Next Sunday Evening...

Short story collection
Stories of My Life

A collection of short story that was inspired by my life.

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