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 Renaissance Italy. Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, with their
stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiammetta and
her dwarf companion, Bucino, head for Venice, the shimmering city born out of
water to become a miracle of east-west trade: rich and rancid, pious and
profitable, beautiful and squalid.
With a mix of courage and cunning they infiltrate Venetian society. Together
they make the perfect partnership: the sharp-tongued, sharp-witted dwarf, and
his vibrant mistress, trained from birth to charm, entertain, and satisfy men
who have the money to support her.
Yet as their fortunes rise, this perfect partnership comes under threat, from
the searing passion of a lover who wants more than his allotted nights to the
attentions of an admiring Turk in search of human novelties for his sultan's
court. But Fiammetta and Bucino's greatest challenge comes from a young crippled
woman, a blind healer who insinuates herself into their lives and hearts with
devastating consequences for them all.
A story of desire and deception, sin and religion, loyalty and friendship, In
the Company of the Courtesan paints a portrait of one of the world's greatest
cities at its most potent moment in history: It is a picture that remains vivid
long after the final page.
If your view of historical novels has been jaded by too many bland offerings, In The Company of The Courtesan maybe just the book to get you to reassess the genre - and if you love historicals, this is definitely one you'll want to take a close look at. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Erica Jong
The strength of the novel is its depiction of the cruelty of Venice, which underlies the city's gorgeous, glittering effects. But the novel's weakness is in its rococo meanderings, as if Dunant had lost her thread through the labyrinth and tried to write about too many things
Salon.com - Laura Miller Courtesan finally emerges as something very rare, a celebration of the complicated and undersung affections that flourish between colleagues and friends.
Booklist - Mary Ellen Quinn
Starred Review. Dunant's portrait of Renaissance Venice--its life high and low, its sights, sounds, smells, and even some of its historical inhabitants (Titian being one)--is intoxicating, made even more compelling by the fact that we see it through the eyes of an unusually acute observer.
Starred Review. Renaissance Italy enchants in Dunant's delicious second historical.
Library Journal - Wendy Bethel
The portrait that Dunant paints of Renaissance Venice sparkles like light through Murano glass, and the story herein is perfect in its portrayal of human imperfection, like Bucino himself.
The Observer - Rebecca Seal
Dunant excels at creating a page-turner and her narrative has the ring of historical accuracy.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kim Exceptional historical fiction I have to admit the only reason I picked up "Courtesan" was because it was a Bookbrowse "Favorite Book Nominee" for 2006, and I'd had very good luck with the site's recommendations. Once I actually received the book, however, I was convinced I'd... Read More
Rated of 5
by lisa i didn't want it to end... This was one of those rare books that left you longing for more after it was over. my sister recommended the book to me and said "I am jealous of you that you are going to be reading it for the first time". After finishing it, I understood what... Read More
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