17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Romp
The book charts the lives of 5 women, who in this modern day would be classed as prostitutes, call girls, take your pick. They did indeed sell their favours for money, but these were not women of easy virtue, far from it. They had far more to offer to the men in their lives than mere sexual favours.
They were talented women, the fashion icons of their day...
Published on 26 Jun 2006 by J. Chippindale
3.0 out of 5 stars A ok book
I did like the book overall. I hadnt heard of these women and wanted to read a bit more about them. But their were two things that annoyed me. 1. the constant jumping. The five chapters, all with the name of the woman they are supposed to go into detail, seem to inculde other women. The author jumps to another courtesan or woman of the day. This led me to think maybe the...
Published on 6 Jun 2011 by Rmgay
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Romp,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)The book charts the lives of 5 women, who in this modern day would be classed as prostitutes, call girls, take your pick. They did indeed sell their favours for money, but these were not women of easy virtue, far from it. They had far more to offer to the men in their lives than mere sexual favours.
They were talented women, the fashion icons of their day. Intelligent and well read. Musicians and even linguists. Yes they were erotic, had the faces and the bodies that attracted men to them, but they were a far cry from the women who frequented taverns and the back streets of London selling their bodies to anyone and everyone who had a few coppers to spare.
These courtesans had an agenda and that agenda was to lure a rich patron into their web. Their attributes could help to give themselves a wonderful life. A life that they would probably never have experienced without the use of their feminine wiles and the gullibility and weakness of men.
Katie Hickman gives a compelling account of the lives of these five women. A glittering life that most people in the 18th and 19th century could normally only dream about.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 18th Century Junkies Look no Further,
By A Customer
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)If like me you've become an obsessive reader of books about 18th century figures then you will enjoy this book. The worlds of the 'ton' and the 'demi-monde' operated side and by side sometimes colliding disastrously and ocassionally successfully. Katie Hickman's book looks at the lives of four courtesans and their contemporaries with a modern eye but a keen understanding of the mores and givens of the time. You feel she really likes the women she portrays, warts and all, and excels at those gossipy details beloved of home historians like me. I used to want to be Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire but now I think Harriette Wilson, the 18th century's 'Material Girl' was having much more fun!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute delight,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)Like one of the reviewers below, I confess up front to being a junkie for the Restoration period up until the Victorians. So this book - all about racy women in great frocks - was always going to be right up my street. I read it over Xmas with the flu, and thank god I had it to distract me from feeling rotten. It was a wonderful read with lots of period detail and great real-life stories about a set of women who trod a very difficult/different path to the norms of the time. They didn't always make it work, but by god they had a great time trying! I missed it when I finished it, so I'm off to see if there's anything about this period that I haven't read yet...
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)I bought this book in a travellers' book exchange shop in Vietnam, and loved it so much I carted it home in my backpack. It tells the stories of five British courtesans whose lives span The Georgian period through to the early twentieth century. Each had a very different personality yet reached the pinnacle of success. The only thing I felt at the end was that I could have read a full book about each of them.
3.0 out of 5 stars A ok book,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)I did like the book overall. I hadnt heard of these women and wanted to read a bit more about them. But their were two things that annoyed me. 1. the constant jumping. The five chapters, all with the name of the woman they are supposed to go into detail, seem to inculde other women. The author jumps to another courtesan or woman of the day. This led me to think maybe the author didnt have enough info for the women she had already assigned chapters. I didnt mind it when she put a breif paragraph but sometimes it would be a few pages that didnt really realte. She should have done a serpate chapter of odds and ends of the courstesans, the ones she couldnt quite strech out.
The other was the constant use of french(without translation sometimes). It wasnt needed. I found this distrubed the book. For this reason alone i rate the book low.
4.0 out of 5 stars A sparkling overview of the courtesan's world.,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)This is a great book to introduce you to the world of the courtesans & the demi-monde. If, like me, you have read about individual courtesans before, this book will provide some understanding of the background & social mores which made the existence of these women possible. On the other hand, if this is your first foray into the demi-monde, it is a good way to get to know this very complicated world. But you need to put your 21st century feminist principles firmly to one side, if you are to view these women as they were seen (& how they wished to be seen) by thier contemporaries. I particularly liked the fact that the writer didn't dwell too much on the ultimate demise of these women, as I have found some other biographers tended to. As if they had somehow got the ultimate come-uppence for their lives of dissipation! You only have to read about the deaths of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire or Mary Wollstonecraft to know that disease & death were particualrly nasty back then. My only disappointment was that there were no photos or portraits in my book, but then it was an old copy that I got for a bargain price. Other good reads on this subjest are the 'Courtesans Revenenge' & biographies of Emma Hamilton or Perdita Robinson.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy research,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)Well, it's an entertaining enough read but don't rely on it too much for historical accuracy. Not when Hickman cites "Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in the Year 1764-65" as a primary source on three separate occasions, even though "Diary etc." was written in the 1920s, as fiction, by a young Magdalen King-Hall. It hasn't been considered genuine since it was first published. It really doesn't say a great deal for the standard of Hickman's research.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, but....,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)I really enjoyed this book as an excellent read, but am not sure that I really agree with the author's (and some reviewers here) opinion that these women were independent, 'proto-feminists' who could be role models for us today. For all their beauty, glamour, money etc etc these women were, at heart, prostitutes, utterly dependant on men to whom they sold their bodies for money. Yes they maintained a kind of freedom in avoiding the patriarchal power of marriage, but they weren't any less defined by men, or any more able to construct their own lifestyles or self-identities, other than in what would be sexually-enticing for the men they needed to survive.
Most of them weren't married, not because they chose to be 'single', but because they weren't accepted in 'polite' society, an alienation which is played down quite a lot in the book. Similarly there's a lot of talk about their sexual independance, but while they were women who valued themselves, can someone be said to be independant when actually they are socially-ostracised, and have to sleep with men because that's their 'career' and only source of income?
It seems to me to be a little disturbing that there is a bit of trend for glamourising prostitution (Belle du Jour, for example, as a modern take on the same story), when beneath the money and the allure lies what appears to me to be a sad story of female victims dressing up their own dependancy as freedom.
Despite that (!), I did enjoy this book, in the way that I would enjoy a light novel, and there's undoubtedly a sense of survival about these women that is admirable. The shopping too is mouth-watering, but for all the women who raved about this for the 'independance' of the protagonists: be honest, is this really what we would want for our daughters?
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesans - a slice of high society cake,
By A Customer
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)'Courtesans' presents the lives of 5 high society prostitutes over a time span of 150 years. It surprises the reader for its eloquent re-construction of attitudes to such women in Paris and London and also sensitively and accurately records the considerable changes in sexual mores that took place for example between the Georgian and Victorian ages. The 5 women had in common with each other then and with western women in general today a determination to keep financial and sexual freedom as a right. The price that they paid then and the price we pay today is well worth meditating on. An excellent read !
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but a bit irritating,
This review is from: Courtesans (Paperback)The main thing that wound me up about this book was the way the author never came out and criticised prostitution; in fact, she more or less did the opposite by praising the beauty, intelligence and resourcefulness of all the whores she appears to hero-worship. It doesn't matter how you dress it up or what you call it, prostitution is still a dreadful way to make a living, but you wouldn't know that from reading this book.
I confess I'm a picky reader so I found the constant use of French VERY annoying. I mean, what's the point of printing an entire paragraph in the original French, and then following it with the exact same paragraph's English trasnlation? It brought back memories of that awful TV programme 'A Year in Provence' where poor John Thaw was obliged to say everything twice so he'd be understood both by his French neighbours and the English viewers.
Apart from the above gripes, I thought the book was generally well thought out and put together, although there were times when it seemed to lurch here-and-there, so a bit more restructuring would have been good. I also thought there could have been more thought put into the use of explanatatory text - there were too many occasions where I read an explanation, e.g. what £20 in the seventeenth century would be worth today, only to read more or less the same thing on the next page, and the page after that, and so on.
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Courtesans by Katie Hickman (Paperback - 18 Mar 2011)