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“This is my second book by Dunant that I have read this year, and she is surely becoming a huge favorite of mine. This book languished in my TBR pile for more than 2 years, and I am so glad I finally got around to it- thank goodness for reading challenges!
“I was rather disappointed in Sarah Dunant’s previous venture into Italian historical fiction so I approached this book with some reservations. Happily I found it to be a much more successful novel.
The story begins in 1527 on the eve of the infamous Sack of Rome. The dwarf Bucino goes to the walls of Rome to find out the latest news for his mistress, the beautiful courtesan Fiammetta. Warned of the imminent arrival of a marauding army of war-hardened Spaniards and fanatical Protestant Germans, Fiammetta devises an ingenious strategy. Rather than run or hide, she will charm the invaders with her wit and beauty. The plan almost succeeds, but even the resourceful courtesan cannot escape the city’s fate. Having been stripped of her beautiful hair and most of her belongings, Fiammetta persuades Bucino to join her in escaping to Venice where she was born. There, with the help of a hunchback and half blind wise woman, known as La Draga, Fiammetta slowly regains her beauty and confidence and re-establishes herself as a successful courtesan.
A large part of the novel’s charm lies in its depiction of Venice, its culture and its physical beauty, all the more engaging as the city is seen through the eyes of a narrator, Bucino, who arrives in Venice already prejudiced against it, but who unconsciously comes to love it. But fundamentally, its major success lies in its characters. Each of them is well-rounded and finely drawn, especially Bucino.
And there, I feel, lies the reason why this is a much more successful novel than The Birth of Venus. Here, Ms Dunant has not attempted to get inside the Italian family, an insular institution not easily penetrated by the unfamiliar, but has instead created a cast of outsiders who are therefore free to create individual lives and forge unique relationships, thus creating a much more credible and engaging story. This is a novel I can highly recommend.
“In the Company of the Courtesan – Sarah Dunant
Audio performance by Steven Hoye
From the convent to a brothel. The first Sarah Dunant book that I read was Sacred Hearts. This book looks at an entirely different cross-section of 16th century Italy. Far from the detailed picture of the religious lives of secluded nuns, In the Company of the Courtesan examines the lives of a high class whore and her pimp, the dwarf, Bucino. In coarse, gritty language, Bucino relates the story of their narrow escape from the sack of Rome and Fiammetta’s eventual recovery of health and fortune in her native Venice.
Dunant describes Venice and its layers of society with amazing attention to detail. Life can be luxurious for the prosperous, but also brutal, dangerous and ugly. Bucino and Fiammetta interact with Venice and each other in a way that seemed both theatrical and completely genuine. A courtesan and her dwarf? What are they if not actors?
Some of the drama is comedic, but much of it is distinctly tragic. I was glad that the ending allowed an optimistic outlook for the further adventures of Bucino and Fiammetta.
“My review is actually a 2 1/2. I've read two books by this author and don't believe I will read anymore.”Ruth G wrote this review Friday, May 10, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“surprisingly all about the dwarf that keeps her house. from rome to venice and the high-society life”rachael wrote this review Friday, January 25, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The book was nice and interesting, but the ending was very dull and distasteful. It's like the author had lost her creativity by the end, or had ran out of things to talk about regarding her limited list of characters. Kind of disappointing, I was prepared for a grand finale. ”Bu7906 wrote this review Thursday, October 4, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This book is set in Renaissance Venice and tells the story of Fiammetta, a beautiful courtesan, through the eyes of her loyal dwarf servant and friend, Bucino. Fiammetta and Bucino have escaped the Sack of Rome and head to Venice, where Fiammetta hopes to reestablish herself as a courtesan. However, when they arrive, they find that Fiammetta's mother has died, and her house is occupied by her maid. Fiammetta enlists the help of "The Witch" a blind healer who helps Fiammetta get her famous Titian colored tresses back. Undaunted, Bucino and Fiammetta set themselves up by pawning some of the jewels they were able to smuggle out of Rome. However, the final, and best, gem has gone missing and money is running out. This is were the mysterious manuscript they have from Rome enters the picture. With the help of the pawn merchant, they discover that it is a copy of a book banned by the Pope: all copies were thought to be destroyed. Aretino, a writer with a connection to the banned book, is subtly blackmailed into helping Fiammetta set herself up in Venice. There is an interesting and surprising mystery surrounding what happened to the missing gem.
I enjoyed the period detail in this book. I visited Venice in my youth and found it to be a magical and mysterious place. I was happy to revisit it in this novel. However, I found the character of Fiammetta to be somewhat distant...there were only a few scenes in which she seemed real to me; this kept me from giving the book 4 stars.”
“Too much detail and not enough story.It just seemed to drag on and on and on.I wont bother picking up another of her books.”Julie Booker wrote this review Tuesday, July 31, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Loved the descriptions of Venice”Mary P wrote this review Wednesday, June 20, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“book club”Reader wrote this review Saturday, June 2, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Set in Venice in the 1500's a story about a beautiful Courtesan and her dwarf. I really enjoyed this and as I love Venice and could picture all the canals bridges etc it made it all the better for me.”Deborah O wrote this review Thursday, May 31, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No