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In The Company Of The Courtesan Paperback – 18 Jan 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (18 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844082296
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844082292
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 377,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


There is no more accomplished guide to Renaissance Italy than Sarah Dunant. After taking us to Florence in The Birth of Venus, she moves on to Venice with In the Company of the Courtesan . . . Dunant has a sharp eye for the tawdry attractions of the carnal canal city, and a keen nose for hypocrisy, especially in the Church. . . Dunant creates a large cast of vivid characters, none more so than La Draga, the blind healer, whose fate provides the novel's climax. . .This is an enthralling novel that will give the reader as much pleasure as Fiammetta does her clients (Michael Arditti, Daily Mail)

In the Company of the Courtesan demonstrates again Dunant's fascination with Renaissance Italy. The novel is avidly researched, but Dunant adds life to the 'true (story through her colourful characters. Most interesting is the sexual politics of the time, particularly the presentation of the daily habits of a courtesan, a lifestyle fuelled by greed and pleasure')

Claudia Webb, Financial Times ('The backdrop is the real success. Historical and geographical details are used sparingly and the effect is lovely. Almost in passing, we discover that Fiametta is the model for Titian's sensual Venus of Urbino. Venice's glassmaking features in a jewel fo)

Alice Fordham, The Times ('In the Company of the Courtesan is set just decades after Dunant's phenomenally successful The Birth of Venus. . . Once again, the author's phenomenal attention to detail is present throughout. This book is vividly atmospheric, mesmerising the reader int)

Book Description

* Reissued in a new look, the breathtaking historical novel about love, beauty, the politics of sex and the power of loyalty set in Venice, by the author of SACRED HEARTS, featuring a fabulous courtesan and her dwarf

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 July 2007
Format: Paperback
When Rome is invaded in 1527 by a pillaging army of Spanish and German Lutheran troops, the high life is over for Fiammetta Bianchini, a beautiful, young, high ranking courtesan who could count Vatican Cardinals among her select clientele. Shorn of her hair and her riches looted bar a few gems she has managed to swallow, she escapes with Bucino, a dwarf in her employ, and together they travel to Venice, hoping to make their fortunes again.

As the great city of commerce during the height of its power and influence, Venice is the perfect location where the courtesan's business of sex is just another trade where clients are selected for their influence and mutual favours can be gained. Dunant writes well here, with the same easy readability and unostentatious sense of the period that made her Renaissance Florence setting of 'The Birth of Venus' such a delight. Blended into the story here are historical characters such as Titian and Aretino and fine details and information on the period, such as how the courtesans would attract clients at church and the reason why the convents were so full of the daughters of nobles in those days (to cut down on the number of expensive dowries and divisions of estates that would result from a marriage). All these kinds of details are relevant to the subject and not just thrown in for colour or to show off the amount of research done.

The real key to the book being so enjoyable is through the sympathetic charm, intelligence and wit of its narrator - the dwarf Bucino. His small stature gives us, quite literally, a unique perspective as an outsider on the grandeur of Rome and Venice, as well as his view of his Lady's affairs, which is not quite as dispassionate as he would like it to be. And it's same inability to remain impassive while looking in on the riches and beauty as well as the brutality and corruption of 16th Century Venice that draws the reader into the book and keeps them involved through to the last page.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
For many years Sarah Dunant presented the late show. She is also the author of seven crime novels and creator of her famous sleuth, Hannah Wolfe.

I found this book much, much more enjoyable than I expected it to be, so it was a really pleasant surprise. This is in no way a slight on the writing capabilities of the author, who has proved her calibre with several previous offerings. The problem was that initially the subject matter of the book did not really appeal to me, but my mind was soon changed.

The book is about life in Renaissance Italy and begins with the sacking of the eternal city of Rome by the armies of the Holy Roman Emperor and the subsequent journey of the courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini and her dwarf companion Bucino, as they leave Rome with their stomachs full of the jewels they have swallowed and head for the city of Venice. How they manage to infiltrate themselves into Venetian society.

Together they make the ideal partnership. On the one hand the quick witted and intelligent Bucino, on the other his mistress Fiammetta, a beautiful woman, trained in the art of entertaining and satisfying men who have the money to support her.

This is a story of desire, deception, sin, loyalty, in fact everything that men and women bring out in one another, sometimes with heartbreaking and devastating consequences. Beautifully written, sometimes witty, sometimes sad, but always interesting.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Anita Houghton on 17 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Like all Sarah Dunant's novels, this is a story first and foremost, and an involving and gripping one. Told through the eyes of a courtesan's dwarf, it is the tale of their flight from Rome, savagely sacked by the Lutherans, to Venice, where they had to set up their business all over again. A fascinating insight into the early sixteenth century, when venice was at its most successful, and into the life of a courtesan, it cast a brooding and magical spell over my recent visit there. Underlying the story is the pathos of this small man, the indignities and the insecurities he suffers as a result of his deformity. Very touching.
I remember Sarah Dunant from her days of chairing BBC2's Late Review, where her enthusiasm and intense curiosity about the works she was reviewing and the people she was interviewing injected a vitality into the programme that has never been quite emulated by her successors. That same passion permeates every page of her writing.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 23 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Last year I read Sarah Dunant's 'The Birth of Venus', it was my book of the year and I didn't want it to end. It was a hard act to follow and although I enjoyed 'In the Company of the Courtesan', it didn't quite reach the grade.

The book covered a lot of ground; from the ransacking of Rome in 1527, through the exile of the courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini and her dwarf companion, Bucino, to their eventual arrival in Venice and their subsequent struggles to establish themselves with little financial provision.

The characters are wonderful and beautifully described, as is the feel of the watery wonderland / slum that was Venice at the time. My main problem with the book were the passages of philosophical discussion on subjects such as the morals of prostitution and who is actually the sinner. Without these this would have been a masterpiece.

Sarah Dunant has established herself in the genre of historical fiction and I shall certainly be eagerly awaiting her next book.
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