Monday, July 08, 2019

Marie, Dancing

Marie, Dancing. Carolyn Meyer. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "You," said the man wearing blue-tinted eyeglasses. 

Premise/plot: Edgar Degas is known for his paintings of dancers. But he is also known, of course, for his sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Marie, Dancing is a fictional account of that fourteen-year-old dancer, Marie van Goethem. The novel opens in 1878 with Degas inviting the young girl to model for him. It follows her through several years--even when she is no longer dancing.

Marie is the middle daughter. She has an older sister, Antoinette, and a younger sister, Charlotte. All three are ballet dancers. Dancing alone would never bring home enough money to pay the rent and buy food. That's one reason their aunt disapproves of the way her sister is raising the girls. (Another reason is that the mom is a drunk who takes what little money they have to drink.) Marie and Charlotte are almost always on the hungry side. Antoinette has started looking for men willing to pay for her company. So she'll come home with extra money, jewelry, and clothes. She's a vain girl; the more attention she receives from men the less attention she gives to her sisters and her dancing. Marie uses the money she gets from modeling to support her family. The modeling does not last long--at least through the eyes of Marie herself. She misses the money when it's gone. It took years for the sculpture to get finished and be ready for exhibition. (1881)

My thoughts: Marie, Dancing is set in Paris, France, during the late nineteenth century. It stars a few historical figures--Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. Marie van Goethem was a real girl; the novel has its basis in truth. But the novel is definitely fictional!

Carolyn Meyer is one of my favorite historical writers. I definitely enjoyed this one! I loved, loved, loved the setting. Although the novel could make one hungry....if one is prone to really getting immersed in a novel. I loved the sprinkling of French throughout the novel. I found that aspect delightful.

I thought the characterization was wonderful. I really loved Marie and Charlotte. I loved Marie's friendship with Jean-Pierre. I was really hoping these two would have a happy ending. (I was disappointed.)

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Lark 10:26 AM  

I read this one years ago, but I remember really liking it a lot. But then, it's set in Paris. And it's about an artist. And dancers. Three things I always enjoy. :)

Mae Travels 11:16 AM  

I've been reading a Zola novel set in that time frame in Paris. Of course he wasn't writing historical fiction, just writing about his own times and observations, so I wonder how the details line up. Any reasonable writer of fiction about that time would undoubtedly read Zola for inspiration.

best... mae at

Vagabonde 5:30 PM  

I have not read the book but I saw her, the statue, not long ago, maybe in March, at the Frist Museum of Art in Nashville where there was an exhibition on French painters. The statue was not very big and the colors of her tutu had faded. I understand that when Degas exhibited her, La Petite Danseuse, she was not very well received by the public who said she was not pretty, some even said she looked like a monkey. I understand she did not have a fun life and I don’t think anyone know what happened to her in the end. I guess better to read a fiction of her life.

Online Reputation Management 6:31 AM  

Read it years ago, it affected me so much, not sure why. I need to read it again!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 9:24 AM  

This sounds like a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Matthew Feargrieve 12:17 PM  

I really loved this book. It captured me!

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