Summary and book reviews of In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

In The Company of the Courtesan

by Sarah Dunant

In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant X
In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2006, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 392 pages

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Book Summary

A story of desire and deception, sin and religion, loyalty and friendship that paints a portrait of one of the world's greatest cities, Renaissance Venice, at its most potent moment in history.

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.

Chapter one
Rome, 1527

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.

Italy was a living chessboard for the ambitions of half of Europe in those days. The threat of war was as regular as the harvest, alliances made in winter were broken by spring, and there were places where women bore another child by a different invading father every other year. In the great and glorious city of Rome, we had grown soft living under God's protection, but such was the instability of the times that even the holiest of fathers made unholy alliances, and a pope with Medici blood in his veins was always more prone to politics ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About The Book

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.
...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review (368 words).

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Media Reviews

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.

Publishers Weekly
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.

Reader Reviews

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

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 she...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Brief History of The Renaissance

The Renaissance period (from the French word 'rebirth', Il Rinascimento in Italian) was a period of scientific and cultural changes. The Renaissance was triggered by a new interest in the ancient classical texts and a desire to learn how they could be applied to the arts and sciences - the ...

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