I know I have said too many times before that I love historical fiction and this new novel is a great example of why I enjoy reading so much. This novel begins in Paris in 1878 during the Belle Epoque where art, literature, opera, and ballet are changing the culture. Buchanan uses the true stories of the young dancer who inspired Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and his portrait of two criminals in a notorious criminal trial of that time. Also added to the story is the writing of Emile Zola and newspaper articles of the time.
The van Geothem sisters, Marie, Charlotte, and Antoinette, find themselves plunged into this world of ballet and theater while just trying to survive. Life is still very harsh and Dickens’ the Tale of Two Cities kept coming to mind as I read this. Although a different period of time, the harshness of the life had not changed. Marie and Charlotte find themselves in the Paris Opera Ballet corps trying to become a member of the cast and Antoinette finds herself on the stage in small parts. All of them are struggling, but Marie finds an additional way to make a little money by posing for Degas in his apartments. Antoinette finds herself involved with a young man of questionable background who is accused of the murder of an owner of an inn. All of these stories blend together into a wonderful insight into Paris in the late 19th century.