Well this week has been pretty much a write-off.. no sewing happening here... :( I've been laid low by a sore throat and now a miserable cold. I'm sniffin' and snuffin', coughin' and shiverin'. NO FUN. I had to cancel both the classes I was to teach this week. I hate cancelling, as it is so hard to re-schedule and find dates that suit everyone. Wednesday's class cancellation was the result of the storm that blew through- we had freezing rain overnight and road conditions early in the morning were not great. Schools were closed too, so I know we made the right call. Freezing rain, rain, snow in some areas and high winds made for a good day to stay home, warm and dry. That's the day my cold started. Ugh. I've been spending a lot of time horizontal, on the couch, wrapped up in a quilt, Kleenex box and throat lozenges handy. Oliver has been very sympathetic and frequently jumps up to check on me - his 14 pounds, sitting on my chest (ooof!) doesn't do a lot for me, but his purring and kitty cuddles make me feel loved.
The up side to all this time spent horizontal is that I've finished another good book. The Painted Girls by Canadian author Cathy Marie Buchanan is set in Paris, 1878-1881. This historical fiction is a story of opposites - wealth vs. poverty, weakness vs. strength and beauty vs. ugliness. The beauty and glamour of the French Opera and Ballet stage hides behind it the truth - the ugliness of the extreme poverty of the Paris slums, post revolution, and the struggles of young girls to make it as dancers, against seemingly insurmountable odds. Buchanan weaves together the story of the van Goethem sisters who are struggling to survive after the death of their father and their mother's alcoholism, and the work of painter and sculptor Edgar Degas. Marie van Goethem is accepted to train for the ballet and her meagre earnings go to help pay their monthly rent. She is soon modelling in the studio of Degas, who eventually immortalizes her in the sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14. Marie's older sister Antoinette finds work for a short time, also on the stage, but before long her association with a dangerous young man is her downfall and her life seems to spiral out of control. She is torn between her responsibilities to her two younger sisters and her love for Emile.
Buchanan, herself a ballerina and teacher of dance, long admired Degas' portraits of dancers and after research on the van Goethem sisters, the Paris ballet and the social climate of the times, she was inspired to write this novel, mixing in several notorious crime cases of the times. Her writing is rich, emotional and heart-breaking, her characters real. The story of the sisters is captivating, their circumstances heart-wrenching, their sisterly love hopeful. You will be engaged from beginning to end by this richly painted study of poverty, crime and the harsh realities for poor young women in Paris at this time. If you like historical fiction and have an interest in ballet or art, I'm sure you would enjoy this book.
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You know you're reading a good book, when you have to cover up the next page so you don't read ahead...