There’s a certain joy in being the first person to read a brand new copy of a book. (And with free holds back, it doesn’t cost a thing to place a hold on our On Order titles!) That joy was recently mine when I got hold of our copy of The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan. And I devoured it in a weekend. It’s a beautifully told story about two sisters: one a hardworking ballet rat who models for Degas, the other more of a free spirit. Both are trying to navigate their lives of poverty with dignity, and both encounter moral challenges along the way. My one regret was that I don’t have a Book Club to share it with. This is a book that lends itself to discussion.
It left me wanting more. More about ballet dancers. More about Degas. More about Paris during the late 19th century. If you feel the same, here’s what fiction I’d read next:
Like The Painted Girls, this novel is historical fiction featuring characters that actually existed. Mathilde Kschessinka (or Little K) was a Russian prima ballerina and mistress of Tsar Nicholas II. The decadent world of Russian aristocracy is a hotbed of ambitions, passions and scandal. Little K feels she has Niki’s heart, and she’s bourne him a son – will that be enough to secure her future?
The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
Set in late 19th century New York City, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of a man engaged to a perfectly suitable woman yet drawn to a perfectly unsuitable one. It is one of my all-time favourites and the inspiration for the fabulous (sorry, Heidi, I know you disagree) debut The Innocents by Francesca Segal.
Sepulchre, by Kate Mosse
It’s France in the 1890s and Parisian Leonie Vernier is visiting her aunt in the countryside for her uncle’s funeral. There are rumours that her uncle was involved in the occult. Leonie’s curiosity is aroused and complications mount. Mixed in with Leonie’s story is that of a contemporary scholar of Debussy, Meredith, who discovers an aged tarot deck with a card bearing her likeness.
First off, I have to confess that I LOVE Susan Vreeland, who brings new life to art history with each of her novels. In this one, she takes a closer look at Renoir’s famous work, Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880) – taking us through the painter’s concerns and making his model’s concerns and personalities come to life.