The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, narrated by, Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan,and Danny Campbell
This was an interesting story with very well done, fully fleshed out characters , and with what I love about historical fiction, it made me go do research so I had Degas’ Ballerina portraits and the little dancer sculpture on my computer so I could look at them while reading. These characters are all very flawed but really just trying to survive the world the best they know how.
The story of these girls was fascinating and I loved the liberty the author took to combine Emil’s story with Antoinette & Marie’s I think it added such a great layer of depth to the story, where if it hadn’t been there, this book would have had less “meat” to it. There is a third sister in this story but to me she was just a secondary character to Antoinette & Marie, yet even though their mother is a smaller part of the story too I really felt her presence whenever she was in a scene, like when she was visiting Antoinette but really she wasn’t there to see her daughter it was just an excuse for a few extra hours off work. I thought this epitomized who this woman was.
This is also a great look at life especially for the poor in the late 1800’s and how once their father dies they have to find work somewhere, there were much worse “professions” than being a dancer or even a nude model for an artist and we all know what that is. These girls don’t have it easy and go through some pretty tough times and tough men. Also the insight into the paintings of Degas that I think everyone has seen even if they don’t realize who the artist is was fascinating, he seems to be one of the few artists that actually had a modicum of success while he was still alive. I have always found his work fascinating because of its day in a life aspects’ so that made his part in this book extra interesting to me.
Cassandra Campbell narrates the older sister and Julia Whelan narrates the younger, both were very good, while their voices are similar (like sisters) but you could always tell which sister was speaking. Danny Campbell’s narration of the newspaper clipping interspersed in the story was at first jarring but once I got used to it he was fine but I do need to comment that his voice is a cross between Casey Kasem and Johnny Heller and at times was a little moviephone sounding but I still liked his voice because it is husky and smoky with a little gravel to it. There is also a couple times where the ladies sound like they are from the streets of NY instead of Paris but when I looked at the print version I saw that this is how the author wrote the speech patterns so can’t really fault the narrators. I guess it was kind of like ok all street waifs sound the same in this time period no matter what country they were from so just go with it. I did like that they went all in on no accents there were a couple times where other characters had a slight accent just a slight rolling of the R’s , but the two main character had the same accent all the way through, it was an American accents but I would rather have that than listening to a badly done Pepe Lepew sounding French accent so I believe the right choice was made on this narration.
I highly recommend this book it is good historical fiction with a little look into the world of Degas, a little mystery and the daily life of the downtrodden of the late 1800’s.