In the Company of the Courtesan

In the Company of the Courtesan

My lady, Fiammetta Bianchini, was plucking her eyebrows and biting color into her lips when the unthinkable happened and the Holy Roman Emperor's army blew a hole in the wall of God's eternal city, letting in a flood of half-starved, half-crazed troops bent on pillage and punishment. Thus begins In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant's epic novel of life in...

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Title:In the Company of the Courtesan
Author:Sarah Dunant
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Edition Language:English

In the Company of the Courtesan Reviews

  • Doug Bradshaw

    Set in the 1500s in Venice, Dunant gives us a sometimes raunchy, sometimes touching and always realistic view of the world in this era. The book is written by the partner/manager of a gorgeous "courtesan" which I like to think of as more like a geisha than a prostitute, but make no mistake, our heroine is a high end prostitute and entertainer of rich men of the era. The partner is an extremely likable, insightful, resourcesful dwarf who is well aware of his position in life as a freak and

    Set in the 1500s in Venice, Dunant gives us a sometimes raunchy, sometimes touching and always realistic view of the world in this era. The book is written by the partner/manager of a gorgeous "courtesan" which I like to think of as more like a geisha than a prostitute, but make no mistake, our heroine is a high end prostitute and entertainer of rich men of the era. The partner is an extremely likable, insightful, resourcesful dwarf who is well aware of his position in life as a freak and sometimes entertainer and court jestor. I laughed out loud many times at his views and comments about himeself, other people's reactions to him as well as his general take on things that works today.

    The partnership of the two works extremely well as they escape without much but their lives from Rome which is under siege and then move to Venice to carefully try to rebuild their whole business. Our courtesan has lost her hair and her confidence. With the help of a blind healer, they find their way back into business as usual and then the fun begins with the various and sundry wealthy clients, friends from the past, etc.

    There is humor, there is wisdom about human sexuality, there is history and there is a great and touching story.

  • Savvy

    Having had the pleasure of being in an on-line book discussion of IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN

    last year with Ms. Dunant, I came away with a much finer appreciation of the historical honesty of this novel!

    A few months ago, I had the opportunity to finally meet Sarah Dunant at a book reading and signing of this book in Seattle. Her passion for history is evident and just listening to her enthusiastic account of the research she does in crafting her novels was awe-inspiring!

    As she read a few

    Having had the pleasure of being in an on-line book discussion of IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN

    last year with Ms. Dunant, I came away with a much finer appreciation of the historical honesty of this novel!

    A few months ago, I had the opportunity to finally meet Sarah Dunant at a book reading and signing of this book in Seattle. Her passion for history is evident and just listening to her enthusiastic account of the research she does in crafting her novels was awe-inspiring!

    As she read a few passages, she took me back to the sights, smells and shadows of life of a courtesan called Fiametta (little flame in Italian) and her companion and business partner, the very clever and endearing dwarf, Bucino!

    Sarah's artistry with words brings everything alive with a master touch!

    When little Bucino (who is deathly afraid of the canals of Venice, certain he'll drown in them) passes along the narrow walkways, hugging close to the building, you are standing there feeling a bit green and vertiginous alongside him!

    Descriptions are so vivid and characters are so well developed, that it's easy to move around inside the deceitful society that was Renaissance Italy.

    Sarah shows us that this is a society built on religious beliefs and rules and the rules those beliefs put in place, but in reality, it's equally built on the acceptance of deception, fraud, and dishonesty. Priests give fake confessions for money, men deceive their wives with courtesans and courtesans deceive men with their own fake sense of pleasure.

    Sarah tells us in one of her posts. "One might argue that the only time in which man is/was not in deception is when faced with God, who by definition knows and sees everything.

    Interesting I am not sure that God is in this book. Certainly he/she is less present within the characters than say in THE BIRTH OF VENUS."

    The Courtesan will not disappoint!

    The story is richly rewarding on multiple layers. The mix of real characters (Aretino, the writer and poet...Titian, the artist) with the fictional (Fiametta, Bucino, La Draga, etc.) works very well in the novel! They come boldly and fabulously alive...and we are left standing beside them with all of their hardship, grandeur, and decadence...thanks to the consummate and very gifted wordsmith that is Sarah Dunant!

    I can hardly wait for her next novel!!!

  • Chrissie

    I totally loved this book. What a story! Pure escapism into a real historical past. Marvelous - such a good story. At the end of the book the author clearly states what is fact and what is fiction. I had already looked up several of the characters and deeds. This book and Wikepedia make history into an engaging story. Five stars.

    I have read through page 110. Wonderful entertainment. The reader is pulled into Venice of the 1500s. You are there with the dwarf, the courtesan and the sparkling,

    I totally loved this book. What a story! Pure escapism into a real historical past. Marvelous - such a good story. At the end of the book the author clearly states what is fact and what is fiction. I had already looked up several of the characters and deeds. This book and Wikepedia make history into an engaging story. Five stars.

    I have read through page 110. Wonderful entertainment. The reader is pulled into Venice of the 1500s. You are there with the dwarf, the courtesan and the sparkling, mpving water and shimmering lights of that world.

  • Jeanette

    Two superlative protagonists- partnered but never lovers.

    A singular woman who cuts through boundaries and forbidden studies for her time, and yet heals as much as she deceives.

    Three under characters who are defined more precisely to their actions and with deeper onion like layer complexity than a titled figure of and in a play by Shakespeare.

    Just superb in any one of 3 other categories outside of these prime personalities because it is also of a piece. Mood, progression, knowledge- all

    Two superlative protagonists- partnered but never lovers.

    A singular woman who cuts through boundaries and forbidden studies for her time, and yet heals as much as she deceives.

    Three under characters who are defined more precisely to their actions and with deeper onion like layer complexity than a titled figure of and in a play by Shakespeare.

    Just superb in any one of 3 other categories outside of these prime personalities because it is also of a piece. Mood, progression, knowledge- all increasing as years pass. Losing portions of one thing, but trading them for something else. Often nothing of what was expected. Not even for trust or the most "known".

    Plotting and pacing! Reveal and then anti-reveal. Immaturity in forms and content, and then growth to a formidable full adulthood. But in some ways also incorporating the universal human conditions. More than a few, but most kernel like- that condition of difference, or of being "the other". All sublime in their levels of recognition.

    And if that's not all- it also has within it the most finely evaluated ingredient content for the essence of one city in mid-16th century Italy against another's. The best I've ever read myself for their tone and approach in conversations. This context/ particular set of sensibilities and "eyes" for the Roman. And now for the Venetian. And it still exists to this day.

    The beginning was off-putting to me. It took my attention into a distraction that until the entire combination set "in" to see the entity of the pair working their skills. All the pragmatism! Until then, I had a difficult time setting the crude and foul temper meanness of language, aside. But DO continue.

    Sarah Dunant truly has created a cast to remember in this one. And she also knows about the black fractions of millions of pieces of solid that live in the water at night. This is the world of dark bodies of water. Of lakes and lagoons everywhere.

    Strongly recommend. Very few physical, mental, or emotional human commodities of natural occurrence are obscured in this book. It's often raw and it often tends to seductions. Not only to the biological impulses, but to levels of other comprehensions, most forbidden to those who hold them.

    Come and watch Bucino juggle the Murano glassware duds, the throwaways. And live within his mind these years.

  • Kate Quinn

    For once, a novel that does not romanticize the life of a courtesan. Sarah Dunant continues her mastery of the Renaissance in her second novel, which details the adventures of the Venetian courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion Bucino. The dwarf is the narrator, cynical and worldly, and behind his clowning role at his mistress's back they have forged a shrewd partnership. Fiammetta is a delightful mix of beauty, vanity, courage and desperation as she is left destitute after the Protestant

    For once, a novel that does not romanticize the life of a courtesan. Sarah Dunant continues her mastery of the Renaissance in her second novel, which details the adventures of the Venetian courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion Bucino. The dwarf is the narrator, cynical and worldly, and behind his clowning role at his mistress's back they have forged a shrewd partnership. Fiammetta is a delightful mix of beauty, vanity, courage and desperation as she is left destitute after the Protestant sack of Rome. She returns to the waterways of Venice to make her fortune all over again, and Bucino acts as friend, confidante, manager, and business partner. They endure poverty and persecution, winning their way to riches - but more subtle dangers await the pair when Fiammetta turns from her rich and aging clients to fall in love for the first time in her life. Salvation or damnation lies in the hands of La Draga, a young blind healer whom Bucino has never trusted. Powerful storytelling and a surprising twist power the story along, told in Bucino's world-weary voice.

  • Amalie

    For starters, the title and the cover page of this really can mislead you! "In the Company of the Courtesan" sounds erotic and this is the cover page of my book which I can't find here (I'm guessing Amazon must have stolen it!):

    I started to read this while going to and coming home from work and I began to notice some are staring at the cover :) so I started to read this before going to bed. Anyway there is no noticeable erotic content in the novel although it is an insider view of the business

    For starters, the title and the cover page of this really can mislead you! "In the Company of the Courtesan" sounds erotic and this is the cover page of my book which I can't find here (I'm guessing Amazon must have stolen it!):

    I started to read this while going to and coming home from work and I began to notice some are staring at the cover :) so I started to read this before going to bed. Anyway there is no noticeable erotic content in the novel although it is an insider view of the business of high-end prostitution. The novel's name however is also misleading because it should be something like "In the Company of a Dwarf" or if you want to go with the job description, "In the Company of the Pimp". Because the narrator/the protagonist of this is Bucino Teodoldi, the pimp of Fiammetta Bianchini, the Courtesan.

    Bucino may be a dwarf but his observations are often philosophical, sour, ironic but always honest and smart. The deep understanding relationship between them is also unique. They highly rely on each other, understand each other and honest to each other. But the most interesting relationship in the book is between La Draga, the healer & Bucino whose relationship put Fiammetta into the background.

    In short, the novel is about 3 sinners/misfits of Venice, the sin city full of sinners during 16th century: Bucino, a deformed pimp, La Draga, a female healer branded as a witch and Fiammetta, a young courtesan/prostitute.

    This book has most everything you would want in a historical fiction. It's well-researched and the sights, sounds, smells of 16th century Venice are almost lifelike. You can imagine you are there. So if you feel like it's too long don't give up! You'll not regret a minute of holding onto this.

  • Alice Poon

    After reading “Blood & Beauty: The Borgias”, I always wanted to read another novel by Sarah Dunant. At some Goodreads friends’ nudge, I decided to pick this one up.

    Throughout the first three-quarters of the book I was more emotionally twined with the character of the dwarf Bucino than I would care to admit. The fact that he is also the first-person narrator is supposed to give immediacy and sense of reality to the scenes and things happening to him, but I must confess that I consciously and

    After reading “Blood & Beauty: The Borgias”, I always wanted to read another novel by Sarah Dunant. At some Goodreads friends’ nudge, I decided to pick this one up.

    Throughout the first three-quarters of the book I was more emotionally twined with the character of the dwarf Bucino than I would care to admit. The fact that he is also the first-person narrator is supposed to give immediacy and sense of reality to the scenes and things happening to him, but I must confess that I consciously and stubbornly clung to my skepticism. However, by the time I reached the denouement, I was obviously already too invested in him to be able to detach myself from his pain and anguish, or hold back my tears. That Dunant is a brilliant writer needs no further proof.

    The plot would seem simple enough but nonetheless enthralling: a famed courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf Bucino must escape the carnage of Rome’s invasion by foreign powers and are forced to find their footing again in prospering Venice, where they meet their friends and foes. With their loss of a precious jewel, we are led down a path of intrigue behind a veil of fog when Fiammetta’s healer and friend – a blind hunchback called La Draga – starts to snatch our attention. From that point on, I was loath to put the book down. The ending didn’t surprise as much as it saddened me.

    Apart from being a skillful storyteller, the author is also adept at painting a vivid picture of 16th century urban Venice. In true historical fiction form, real historical characters abound in the novel to enhance the sense of place and time: painter Tiziano Vecellio (or Titian), engraver Marcantonio Raimondi, writer Pietro Aretino, painter Giulio Romano, and healer Elena Crusichi (fictionalized as La Draga).

    I’m giving this novel 3.7 stars. [Warning: the language may be a bit raunchy for some readers’ taste.]

  • Nicole

    I wanted to like this book. The story was great and I loved the concept, but there were too many things that ended up annoying me.

    On the positive side, it was very well written. I did love the character Fiammetta. I wish the book had focused on her throughout. And I liked the descriptions of courtesan life and of Venice. I especially liked the fact that the author took a real painting by Titian and seemingly created a story around it.

    Now for the less positive stuff. [Spoiler Alert] About 3/4

    I wanted to like this book. The story was great and I loved the concept, but there were too many things that ended up annoying me.

    On the positive side, it was very well written. I did love the character Fiammetta. I wish the book had focused on her throughout. And I liked the descriptions of courtesan life and of Venice. I especially liked the fact that the author took a real painting by Titian and seemingly created a story around it.

    Now for the less positive stuff. [Spoiler Alert] About 3/4 of the way through the book, the plot abruptly changed from focusing on the two main characters, Fiammetta and Bucino, to a secondary character, La Draga. This wouldn't have been a problem, and it was interesting in and of itself, but it had very little context, and it seemed a bit hastily thrown in at the end. I found it somewhat unbelievable that Bucino would just "discover" that he was in love with her. There wasn't really any motivation, except that he bumped into her a lot throughout the book, thought she was weird, and was annoyed by her.

    There were also a lot of small plot details that could have been developed but instead seemed to be randomly picked up and dropped along the way. For example, the Jewish pawnbroker makes a few appearances, disappears for a long interlude, and then briefly returns, only to contribute nothing to the story and disappear again. The Turk seems interested in Fiammetta, spends some time trying to convince Bucino to return home with him, and never appears again.

    The author describes a turbulent, vicious prior relationship between Fiammetta and Aretino, only to have the two instantly become friends in Venice, which didn't seem terribly believable, especially given that Fiammetta is blackmailing him. Also, the half-hearted way in which the two main characters sell pages out of their infamous book to help La Draga, when they could have been using it all along, annoyed me. It all just seemed a bit sloppy.

    All in all, this was a good story and the perfect thing to read on vacation, as long as you don't get all nitpicky over the plot like I did.

  • Federico DN

    An ambitious prostitute, a cunning dwarf, and a perilous business to get to the top.

    In this novel we learn the story of "Fiammetta", a prominent prostitute of the roman court; and his ever faithful servant "Bucino", an intrepid dwarf, as much cunning as his mistress beauty.

    Thanks to the courtesan's famous standing and the wealth of her many clients, the peculiar duo lives in comfortable opulence until they are forced to flee the city due to the invasion and great sacking of Rome, in the

    An ambitious prostitute, a cunning dwarf, and a perilous business to get to the top.

    In this novel we learn the story of "Fiammetta", a prominent prostitute of the roman court; and his ever faithful servant "Bucino", an intrepid dwarf, as much cunning as his mistress beauty.

    Thanks to the courtesan's famous standing and the wealth of her many clients, the peculiar duo lives in comfortable opulence until they are forced to flee the city due to the invasion and great sacking of Rome, in the beginnings of the 16th century. Exiled and struggling for survival, they wander aimlessly until one day they arrive to Venice, the second jewel of Europe.

    Forcing their way with no few amount of miracles and an undaunted will, they start slowly rebuilding their life and their wealth to regain once again all their lost greatness, depending solely on the powers of lustful pleasure, a trade as much perilous as dangerous.

    An interesting historical fiction, significantly spicier to what I'm normally accustomed to, in regards to situations described as much as vocabulary. Although I believe it may be light years away of a fifty shades standard. Something to verify someday.

    Until next time,

    -----------------------------------------------

    Una ambiciosa prostituta, un astuto enano, y un peligroso negocio para llegar a la cima.

    En esta novela conocemos la historia de "Fiammetta", una prominente prostituta de la corte romana; y su fiel sirviente "Bucino", un intrépido enano tan astuto como hermosa su dueña.

    Gracias a la fama y posición de la cortesana y la riqueza de sus muchos clientes, el peculiar dúo vive en una cómoda opulencia hasta que se ven forzados a escapar la ciudad debido a la invasión y gran saqueo de Roma, a principios del siglo XVI. Exiliados y luchando por sobrevivir, deambulan sin destino cierto hasta que nn día llegan a Venecia, la segunda joya de Europa.

    A fuerza de una no poca cantidad de milagros y una impertérrita voluntad, empiezan lentamente a reconstruir sus vidas y su riqueza para recuperar otra vez toda la perdida grandeza, dependiendo únicamente del poder del lujurioso placer, un oficio tan azaroso como peligroso.

    Una lectura interesante, significativamente más picante a lo que normalmente estoy acostumbrado, ya sea por las situaciones descriptas como por el vocabulario. Aunque calculo que debe estar a años luz de un estándar de cincuenta sombras. Algo para verificar algún día.

    Hasta la próxima,

  • Susan

    I kept waiting for this to be lusher and smuttier than it was. The story follows the dwarf companion of a renowned courtesan in Venice's heyday. It starts with a dramtic escape from Rome as it's being sacked by some sort of protestant infidel, and watches the courtesan trying to make a name for herself in a new city as she befriends a strange, witchy woman. The relationship between the dwarf and the courtesan is the important one, but lacks meat until the book is nearly over. It's telling that I

    I kept waiting for this to be lusher and smuttier than it was. The story follows the dwarf companion of a renowned courtesan in Venice's heyday. It starts with a dramtic escape from Rome as it's being sacked by some sort of protestant infidel, and watches the courtesan trying to make a name for herself in a new city as she befriends a strange, witchy woman. The relationship between the dwarf and the courtesan is the important one, but lacks meat until the book is nearly over. It's telling that I returned from vacation, picked it up to finish it, and had forgotten that I already had. Meh.

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