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In the Company of the Courtesan: A Novel Hardcover – February 14, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Renaissance Italy enchants in Dunant's delicious second historical (after The Birth of Venus), as a wily dwarf Bucino Teodoldo recounts fantastic escapades with his mistress, celebrated courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini. Escaping the 1527 sacking of Rome with just the clothes on their backs (and a few swallowed jewels in their bellies), Fiammetta and Bucino seek refuge in Venice. Starved, stinking, her beauty destroyed, Fiammetta despairs—but through cunning, will, Bucino's indefatigable loyalty and the magic of a mysterious blind healer called La Draga, she eventually recovers. Aided by a former adversary, who now needs her as much as she needs him, Fiammetta finds a wealthy patron to establish her in her familiar glory. Through Bucino's sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued narration, Dunant crafts a vivid vision of Venetian life: the weave of politics and religion; the layers of class; the rituals, intrigue, superstitions and betrayals. Dunant's characters—the steely courtesan whose glimpse of true love nearly brings her to ruin; the shrewd and passionate dwarf who turns his abnormalities into triumph; and the healer whose mysterious powers and secrets leave an indelible mark on the duo—are irresistible throughout their shifting fortunes. (Feb.)
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From The New Yorker
Dunant's latest historical romp follows the fortunes of a beautiful, flame-haired courtesan, Fiammetta Bianchini, who, after escaping from the 1527 pillage of Rome, sets up shop in Venice. The novel, narrated by Fiammetta's servant, a dwarf, chronicles the pair's horrific scrapes and their dizzying triumphs, which include Fiammetta's becoming Titian's model for his "Venus of Urbino." Along the way, Dunant presents a lively and detailed acccount of the glimmering palaces and murky alleys of Renaissance Venice, and examines the way the city's clerics and prostitutes alike are bound by its peculiar dynamic of opulence and restraint.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
Top customer reviews
The plot itself was secondary in my mind, and I often skimmed over some of the more erotic passages in favor of the more interesting relationship between the two main characters who clearly love and depend on one another as family in what otherwise would have been a sad and mean world for both of them, one due to his deformity and the other due to her gender and station into which she was born.
Great book..I could imagine how Rome and Venice must have been like thanks to Sarah Dunant's descriptive prose and I've bought a few more Sarah Dunant books since then but this one is far and away one of my favorite historical fiction novels. Right up there with "Sunne in Splendour" and "Autobiography of Henry VIII"