CapRadio Reads

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The Painted Girls

August 2014 book selection

The Painted Girls

by Cathy Marie Buchanan

August 6, 2014 | Vicki Lorini

As is often mentioned in The Painted Girls, the theory of Criminal Physiognomy says that one's physical "look" determines what sort of person one will be. The principle characters in our book (Antoinette, Marie and Emile) all seem to have the physical attributes mentioned in this theory. Is it their appearance that has drawn them to lives of misery? Marie, the model for Degas' dancer statuette, is the only one of the three who has read about the theory. I wonder if she knows the truth about this unfortunate mistake by the theorist.

In a time when girls from poor families have no protection, and are vulnerable to all the evil Paris has to offer, is it really possible for the sisters to lift themselves out of this life? And what of the boys? Is a confession of murder the only possible way to be free of Paris and get a one-way ticket to hard labor in New Caledonia?

Author Cathie Marie Buchanan has posed some very interesting questions in this book, and we will have the opportunity to answer them when we meet on Tuesday, August 12, at 6:30. Be sure to sign up now.

July 30, 2014 | Vicki Lorini

As we continue to read The Painted Girls, we find both Marie and Antoinette are making decisions about their futures we may find ill-considered. What gives these girls such low self esteem? Is it that they are poor and fatherless? They are both clever, if not educated. They may not be beautiful, but Marie is a talented and hardworking dancer, and Antoinette seems to have other skills that make her desirable. What are the parallels between these girls and abused women and girls today? What is the cycle that makes it easy for them to submit to the wrong situation or the wrong man?

Whether or not an artist would take advantage of girls like Marie and Antoinette depended on his own perspective. It seems Edgar Degas may have believed criminal activity was the destiny of every poor person, no matter how talented, literate or industrious. That view of fate was a common theme of Emile Zola and other writers of that time.

Do you agree? Are you finding the book interesting, depressing or both? Join us for our next face-to-face. Please reserve your space at the table now. See you on Tuesday August 12 at 6:30 p.m.

July 23, 2014 | Vicki Lorini

In The Painted Girls, artist Edgar Degas and author Emile Zola are prominent characters. Although it is is the story of the two van Goethem sisters, and their relationships with these two artists, the city of Paris may be the book's main character. It was a very different place in the late 1870s.

Paris boasts fabulous food, beautiful buildings and landmarks, and the iconic Seine River.

Cathy Marie Buchanan's chapters are marked with headlines from Le Figaro, the newspaper of the day. The city's dark, musty neighborhoods are filled with ordinary people, leading sad lives of unending poverty, whose only delights are occasional sex, mostly with inappropriate partners, and the occasional visit to a brasserie for too much wine. The headlines are about murder and mayhem, and it seems the characters in this book, like those in a famous book of the time by Emile Zola, are doomed to a terrible and wretched life. I'm hoping there will be some good news soon.

Are you enjoying the book? Do you agree with the idea that these people will remain forever on the lowest rung of society? It will surely make for a fascinating conversation. Be sure to reserve your free ticket to our book discussion meeting on Tuesday, August 12 at 6:30 p.m.

July 16, 2014 | Vicki Lorini

Our August title, The Painted Girls, kicks off two months of books about art and artists. Join us in our art-filled Community Room for these face-to-face meetings.

CapRadio Reads wants to make sure you have a full artistic experience. Our July event with author Galadrielle Allman brought us tales of her life and the life of her father, Duane Allman. Along with her conversation, those of us lucky enough to attend the event were also treated to music by her father and delicious food and wine.

Coming up in August, we can delve into one more of the senses -- visual. Cathy Marie Buchanan's book, The Painted Girls, will allow our visual senses to roam over the words and in our minds, we will be able to see the paintings and small wax and fabric statues of Edgar Degas.

Set in Belle Époque Paris, The Painted Girls is the story of two sisters, one of whom was a model for Degas' famous and controversial statue, Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. After the death of their father, with their mother deep into an Absinthe addiction, the van Goethem sisters had to go to work. Both girls enter the world of theater and dance. Both are at their most vulnerable, and this is where the story starts.

Please pick up your books and join us for another evening of book discussion, a little wine and loads of good conversation. We'll meet in our Community Room at 6:30 on August 12.