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In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant Unabridged CD Audiobook

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Unabridged CD Audiobook ... 12 CDs / 14 hours long


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Unabridged CD Audiobook ... 12 CDs / 14 hours long

30 review for In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant Unabridged CD Audiobook

  1. 4 out of 5

    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 beginn 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,

  2. 4 out of 5

    Icey

    I probably cannot express how clever Sarah Dunant is with my words. She weaved everything together with ease, the sentence flowed, the story flourished, and the characters were all alive in front of you. You grew to love all of them. You breathed with them, feeling the freezing morning air of Venice’s winter. You ran with them, along the riverbank, looking at the canal whose surface is made up of millions of fragments of water lit by the sun. You laughed with them, laughed with them when they ar I probably cannot express how clever Sarah Dunant is with my words. She weaved everything together with ease, the sentence flowed, the story flourished, and the characters were all alive in front of you. You grew to love all of them. You breathed with them, feeling the freezing morning air of Venice’s winter. You ran with them, along the riverbank, looking at the canal whose surface is made up of millions of fragments of water lit by the sun. You laughed with them, laughed with them when they are most triumphant, most adorable, most hilarious. And finally, you cried. But then there was forgiveness in that crying, you realized it all ended here, but it was also the beginning. There was hope. Please do not be tricked by the name of the book, this story is as much about the courtesan as it is about her dwarf Bucino. The story is told from Bucino’s POV and you cannot help but become emotionally connected to him. Buddy read this with my friend Vassa, and how much I enjoyed her company. This book is the one that I have been waiting for so long to find, and is going to be one of my comfort reads.

  3. 4 out of 5

    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 o 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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 someti 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Antigone

    Fiammetta Bianchini has a choice to make. As one of the most sought-after courtesans in all of Renaissance Rome - possessed of a salon unrivaled in elegance, along with a list of clients carefully cultivated over the course of an entire career - she would prefer, in truth, to salvage something. With the angry hordes at the gate and God's Eternal City on the verge of being sacked, we find her ruthlessly calculating...much to the distress of Bucino, her dwarf. Time has clearly run out, last second Fiammetta Bianchini has a choice to make. As one of the most sought-after courtesans in all of Renaissance Rome - possessed of a salon unrivaled in elegance, along with a list of clients carefully cultivated over the course of an entire career - she would prefer, in truth, to salvage something. With the angry hordes at the gate and God's Eternal City on the verge of being sacked, we find her ruthlessly calculating...much to the distress of Bucino, her dwarf. Time has clearly run out, last seconds snatching, as Fiammetta finally settles on the route of appeasement. She will feed, shelter, and entertain the strongest of the marauders, trusting her skills to enlist them a protector. A brave choice, yet one that fails to take into account the religious nature of this invasion and the zealotry sure to be ignited by a woman in her profession. It takes but a single day to set her logic aright. Good-bye, Rome. Hello, Venice. Sarah Dunant has an exceptionally graceful touch with historical fiction. Wonderful characters, intelligent prose and skillful pacing combine to produce stories that are a pleasure to read. I must caution you, though. She is a diligent researcher and the amount of detail she introduces can burden the tale. Still, there are worse ways to slow down a novel than to be accurate to a fault. Would that this were the caliber of flaw we encountered in most literature today.

  7. 4 out of 5

    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 stu 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.]

  8. 5 out of 5

    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!!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    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, mpv 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    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 increasi 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    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 s 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    JG (Introverted Reader)

    Bucino is a dwarf employed by one of the most favored courtesans of Rome, Fiammetta Bianchini. When Rome is sacked by Spaniards and Lutherans in 1527, Bucino and Fiammetta barely escape with their lives and a few jewels they managed to swallow. They are forced to start over again in Fiammetta's native city of Venice. The going is slow at first, but they are both determined to rise to the top again, with the help of some unlikely accomplices. This was really about 3.5 stars. I enjoyed reading it, Bucino is a dwarf employed by one of the most favored courtesans of Rome, Fiammetta Bianchini. When Rome is sacked by Spaniards and Lutherans in 1527, Bucino and Fiammetta barely escape with their lives and a few jewels they managed to swallow. They are forced to start over again in Fiammetta's native city of Venice. The going is slow at first, but they are both determined to rise to the top again, with the help of some unlikely accomplices. This was really about 3.5 stars. I enjoyed reading it, I liked Bucino, and I truly enjoyed reading about Venice. But towards the end I started asking myself what the point of the whole thing was. It didn't really seem to be going anywhere. When it did finally get to something like a conclusion, it was all over pretty quickly. I would have liked a little less build-up and a lot more exploration of the final conflict, for lack of a better word. As it was, I felt like the ending sort of came out of nowhere. And I don't mean that in a good way. Also, looking back at the beginning of the book to remember how to spell Fiammetta's full name, I realized that her character really wasn't very consistent. Her moods and really her overall character seemed to shift to suit whatever needed to happen next in the book. Sometimes that makes a character seem more real, but in this case, it felt like the author didn't know how to get the story where she wanted it to go without changing Fiammetta. I would recommend this book if you're going to Venice soon (I am! Lucky me!). I'm so excited to go see the places that Sarah Dunant described so well! But for a great Renaissance-era book set in Italy, I think I would recommend Susan Vreeland's Passion of Artemisia instead. It's been a while, but I remember that book pretty well, and I think In the Company of the Courtesan will fade pretty quickly from my mind.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Read; 2009 I loved this book. The courtesan and her faithful dwarf survive together. From the sacking of Rome to Venice. They have to rise from the ashes. Bucino is the reason Flammetta succeeds. I love Buccino's happy ending. I highly recommend this book! Read; 2009 I loved this book. The courtesan and her faithful dwarf survive together. From the sacking of Rome to Venice. They have to rise from the ashes. Bucino is the reason Flammetta succeeds. I love Buccino's happy ending. I highly recommend this book!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I liked this book alright. The story was interesting enough to keep me flipping pages. I do have sort of a bone to pick over the narrative voice, though. Enter Bucino: affable dwarf, loyal friend, astute business partner, curious bed buddy, annoyingly detached story teller...I had a tough time bonding with the characters in this story; I don't feel like I really got to know any of them. As the narrator, Bucino kind of peripherally describes events and characters' feelings about said events, but I liked this book alright. The story was interesting enough to keep me flipping pages. I do have sort of a bone to pick over the narrative voice, though. Enter Bucino: affable dwarf, loyal friend, astute business partner, curious bed buddy, annoyingly detached story teller...I had a tough time bonding with the characters in this story; I don't feel like I really got to know any of them. As the narrator, Bucino kind of peripherally describes events and characters' feelings about said events, but you never feel present in the story's action and you can't really grasp the characters' emotions or motivations. I'm reminded of the "show not tell" mantra from Middle School Language Arts class. Dunant might have been better off writing this story after hanging out with Ms. Phillips for a semester or two.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    While I enjoyed Dunant's first novel, The Birth of Venus moreso than this work, I think she has a great knack for writing extremely interesting characters. Bucino is a great hero for her novel and she also does a wonderful job of characterizing 16th century Venice as well. The novel started off quickly, however the middle moved VERY slowly and made the ending less exciting. I was hoping for more of a resolution, and more exposition, but in the end the book doesn't really need to provide the read While I enjoyed Dunant's first novel, The Birth of Venus moreso than this work, I think she has a great knack for writing extremely interesting characters. Bucino is a great hero for her novel and she also does a wonderful job of characterizing 16th century Venice as well. The novel started off quickly, however the middle moved VERY slowly and made the ending less exciting. I was hoping for more of a resolution, and more exposition, but in the end the book doesn't really need to provide the reader with a concrete conclusion. I'd love to see this made into a film. I think Peter Dinklage would make an astounding Bucino - hopefully someone will option the book and do right by the source material.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    This book was great, as the plot was creative, the characters interesting and there was lots of action. At first I figured that I wouldn't be able to relate well to the story of a courtesan and dwarf, but the themes of love and friendship, hardship and politics, drew you into the story. Sarah Dunant is a talented author, I enjoyed her use of analogies. I especially liked reading about Venice in the 1500's, and thought her account of the times was well documented. Of course I checked the net to see the c This book was great, as the plot was creative, the characters interesting and there was lots of action. At first I figured that I wouldn't be able to relate well to the story of a courtesan and dwarf, but the themes of love and friendship, hardship and politics, drew you into the story. Sarah Dunant is a talented author, I enjoyed her use of analogies. I especially liked reading about Venice in the 1500's, and thought her account of the times was well documented. Of course I checked the net to see the complete painting of Venus of Urbino.

  18. 5 out of 5

    April Cote

    A beautiful novel rich in detail, adventure, and history. A story of a beautiful friendship that is completely out of the norms for the time, and their struggle to survive the hardships of life and scandals of a courtesan and a dwarf. Highly recommended for lovers of historical drama and political and society scandal.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charles Matthews

    Historical novels are always as much about the present as about the past. When Margaret Mitchell was writing "Gone With the Wind," for example, women had recently received the right to vote and a certain measure of sexual freedom. Scarlett O'Hara is more like a flapper of the Roaring Twenties than like any actual Southern woman of the Civil War era – more Zelda Fitzgerald than Mary Chesnut. The trick is to keep up the illusion of the past. In her first historical novel, "The Birth of Venus," pub Historical novels are always as much about the present as about the past. When Margaret Mitchell was writing "Gone With the Wind," for example, women had recently received the right to vote and a certain measure of sexual freedom. Scarlett O'Hara is more like a flapper of the Roaring Twenties than like any actual Southern woman of the Civil War era – more Zelda Fitzgerald than Mary Chesnut. The trick is to keep up the illusion of the past. In her first historical novel, "The Birth of Venus," published in 2004, Sarah Dunant just barely concealed her contemporary concerns -- about the rise of fundamentalist theocracies and the subjugation of women and gays – behind the façade of a novel set in 15th-century Florence. Her new book, "In the Company of the Courtesan," is a smoother performance. Dunant's 21st-century sensibility – her attitude toward sexual politics, religious intolerance and the treatment of the disabled – is neatly blended into a plausible portrait of life in 16th-century Venice. When the novel opens, we are in Rome, where 21-year-old Fiammetta Bianchini has already earned a fortune in a career that offers, let us say, horizontal advancement. What better place for a courtesan to strike it rich than a city full of wealthy, amoral and supposedly celibate men? "Ours was a house that had seen cardinals and diplomats gamble away the tribute of a small town over which of them should share my lady's bed that night," says the novel's narrator, the dwarf Bucino, who is Fiammetta's confidant and financial manager. But it's 1527, when Rome was sacked by the troops of Charles V, and Fiammetta and Bucino are forced to flee the raping and pillaging. They haven't lost quite everything: They swallowed some of her jewels before they fled, and Bucino has in his possession a book that will prove to be even more valuable. But Fiammetta was set upon by a gang of angry women who shaved her head, so restoring her beauty -- and thus her livelihood -- will be a top priority. After a harrowing journey, they arrive in Venice, where Fiammetta enlists the services of a blind and deformed young woman known as La Draga, known for her skill with potions and ointments. Bucino is wary of La Draga, but he's won over when her treatments repair the damage done to Fiammetta's health and beauty. Fiammetta becomes the queen of Venetian courtesans, and Titian immortalizes her face and figure as "The Venus of Urbino," a sensuous nude whose erotic charge may be measured by the fact that Mark Twain described it as "the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses." But the novel is as much about Bucino as it is about Fiammetta. Dunant has skillfully imagined what it's like to have his physical limitations, his pride and self-consciousness and loyalty. Bawdy, funny, cynical and smart, Bucino keeps the narrative literally and figuratively down to earth. Indeed, he's a better-drawn character than Fiammetta, who doesn't entirely rise above the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype, and whose wit and power over men we are more told about than shown. It's through Bucino's eyes that the novel's fabulous setting, Venice, comes to life – sights, sounds and smells, riches and perils. There wouldn't be much of a novel without the perils, and Dunant skillfully piles them on, starting with the gruesome sack of Rome, and she keeps some deliciously hair-raising secrets for late in the book. The book suffers only a little bit from historical-novelese: It's hard to write period dialogue that doesn't veer into either highfalutin archaism or contemporary colloquialism. There are a few cameos by actual historical figures, such as Titian and the corrosive satirist Pietro Aretino, and you can feel Dunant straining to make them seem as real as the characters that come mostly from her imagination. In a note at the end of this colorful page-turner, Dunant apologizes for her conscious distortions of fact as well as for any unwitting mistakes, lamenting "that extensive research and a deep love of the period cannot, alas, turn a fiction writer into a historian." Not to worry, Sarah. When you keep us as entertained as you do here, that's good enough. Besides, reading a historical novel for the history is like eating chocolate for the antioxidants. The history and the antioxidants are just fringe benefits – the true appeal lies elsewhere. In this case, it lies in a good story well told.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    1.5 Stars *A well-researched historical fiction with nothing going for it other than the lush setting* I’m always on the lookout for Historical Fiction set in time periods other than WWII. So when someone gave me a copy of In the Company of the Courtesan, I was intrigued. The story started out with the sacking of Rome. In the Company of the Courtesan, is about a famous courtesan and her dwarf sidekick fleeing the destruction then reestablishing themselves in Venice. Unfortunately, that first scene 1.5 Stars *A well-researched historical fiction with nothing going for it other than the lush setting* I’m always on the lookout for Historical Fiction set in time periods other than WWII. So when someone gave me a copy of In the Company of the Courtesan, I was intrigued. The story started out with the sacking of Rome. In the Company of the Courtesan, is about a famous courtesan and her dwarf sidekick fleeing the destruction then reestablishing themselves in Venice. Unfortunately, that first scene was the most exciting thing in the entire book. The writing style was underwhelming. There wasn’t anything terrible about it; I just did not find it engaging. I’m never a fan of present tense novels, but the overall writing never engaged me. The flowery descriptions were offset by crude language. On top of that, the characters were boring, and the plot was mostly them whining. I expected wily machinations and driven women fighting for dominance. Instead, I found long winded descriptions of their pity parties. The characters were oblivious bordering on incompetent. And the plot was basically just them stumbling along screwing up their own lives. It was just so drawn-out and boring. Since I had zero interest in the main characters and their weird relationship, what little plot existed was boring. I could tell the ending was meant to be this big emotional reveal, but I spend through it just wanting it to be over. I’m only rounding up to two stars because it was well researched. Unfortunately, the thorough historical setting was not enough to revive this story. And now I’m torn because I also have a copy of Dunant’s The Birth of Venus. I’ve heard it is a better story, but I am extremely dubious about reading it after how disappointing In the Company of the Courtesan. RATING FACTORS: Ease of Reading: 2 Stars Writing Style: 1 Star Characters and Character Development: 1 Star Plot Structure and Development: 1 Star Level of Captivation: 1 Star Originality: 2 Stars

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sara Giacalone

    I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. I loved the setting (early 16th century Venice, with a little Rome thrown in for fun), the characters (especially the dwarf, who's point of view we share), the story and detail, and especially the ending which felt so satisfying. I know I will be reading it again, probably more than once. I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. I loved the setting (early 16th century Venice, with a little Rome thrown in for fun), the characters (especially the dwarf, who's point of view we share), the story and detail, and especially the ending which felt so satisfying. I know I will be reading it again, probably more than once.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gerald

    Deliciously, sumptuously detailed historical fiction, set mostly in 16th century Venice. It's all about whoredom and fine art. Throw in plenty of political corruption with a heavy salting of disease. Who could ask for more? Deliciously, sumptuously detailed historical fiction, set mostly in 16th century Venice. It's all about whoredom and fine art. Throw in plenty of political corruption with a heavy salting of disease. Who could ask for more?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rusty

    Ah, this is the third novel I have read by Sarah Dunant and by far the best. I loved the story from beginning to end that is told by the indomitable Bucino. Bucino tells the story from his diminished height and short legs. I found myself cheering this man who deals with ridicule day after day. Fiammetta, a lovely courtesan, and Bucino, her intellectual and wily companion, flee Rome in 1527 when it is invaded and burned. Fiammetta's hair was brutally cut from her head and she suffered a cut on he Ah, this is the third novel I have read by Sarah Dunant and by far the best. I loved the story from beginning to end that is told by the indomitable Bucino. Bucino tells the story from his diminished height and short legs. I found myself cheering this man who deals with ridicule day after day. Fiammetta, a lovely courtesan, and Bucino, her intellectual and wily companion, flee Rome in 1527 when it is invaded and burned. Fiammetta's hair was brutally cut from her head and she suffered a cut on her face before they flee the city. Although they lived well in Rome they reach Venice with only jewels that they can hide on their persons. Depressed but hopeful they arrive to find Fiammetta's mother has died but they settle in her home and wait for Fiammetta to recover. The two have an almost perfect partnership with Bucino taking care of the business end and Fiammetta the marketing and luring of clients. However, when their most precious jewel turns out to be an almost perfect reproduction the future looks bleak but they find monetary safety in the form of a banned book, an original that came into Bucino's possession before they left Rome. Since the book was written by a man who is also making his new life in Venice, they enlist his help to develop the new business. More than once they find that people close to them who deceive and rob them almost bringing about their downfall but their friendship holds them together. The ending is a delightful surprise when Bucino and Fiammetta find their life entirely changed by a lovely young lady.

  24. 5 out of 5

    melydia

    Our story begins with the 1527 sack of Rome, and famous courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini is readying her household for the soldiers' arrival. She and her dwarf companion Bucino, who narrates this tale, flee to Venice to start their lives over again. The description pulls no punches, as it were, laying it all bare without nary a euphemism in sight. But it's not just crudeness and filth that is described this way, but great beauty and purity is as well. All in all, a sumptuous presentation of Renaiss Our story begins with the 1527 sack of Rome, and famous courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini is readying her household for the soldiers' arrival. She and her dwarf companion Bucino, who narrates this tale, flee to Venice to start their lives over again. The description pulls no punches, as it were, laying it all bare without nary a euphemism in sight. But it's not just crudeness and filth that is described this way, but great beauty and purity is as well. All in all, a sumptuous presentation of Renaissance Italy as told through the eyes of a cranky dwarf. I wish there had been more plot - I would have liked to know more about what happened to the Jew and the Turk, for example, and that more ends had been tied up by the end - but I suppose that isn't always possible with first-person narration, and the looseness of the story did make it feel more realistic. I especially appreciated the historical notes at the end, explaining which characters were based on real people and where things deviated from fact. It appears there's nearly as much history as fiction in this historical novel. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more by Dunant.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Horton

    I seldom write two-star reviews, but at about the 30-percent mark, this story just wasn't worth my time anymore. It's crass, slow-moving, and just an ugly read. Yuck. I seldom write two-star reviews, but at about the 30-percent mark, this story just wasn't worth my time anymore. It's crass, slow-moving, and just an ugly read. Yuck.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is the second time that I have enjoyed a story by Dunant. This time, a risqué tale, narrated by the humorous dwarf Bucino of his ventures with his courtesan sidekick in 16th century Venice. A real treat to enjoy the last pages in the sunshine of an April day!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annelies - In Another Era

    Bucino is an ugly dwarf living and working together with Fiametta, Rome’s most beautiful courtesan. When the papal city is attacked the pair flees to Venice where they need to build their reputation anew. They receive help from La Draga, a blind healer whom Bucino distrusts immediately and Arentino, a satirical poet looking for a patron. Sarah Dunant is one of my favorite authors because she brings renaissance Italy vividly to life. In ‘In the company of the courtisan‘ she takes us to the sack of Bucino is an ugly dwarf living and working together with Fiametta, Rome’s most beautiful courtesan. When the papal city is attacked the pair flees to Venice where they need to build their reputation anew. They receive help from La Draga, a blind healer whom Bucino distrusts immediately and Arentino, a satirical poet looking for a patron. Sarah Dunant is one of my favorite authors because she brings renaissance Italy vividly to life. In ‘In the company of the courtisan‘ she takes us to the sack of Rome in 1527. The cruel fate that the Spanish, with the help of German protestants, inflict upon the city’s inhabitants is reported by Bucino, a dwarf who tries to protect his misstress Fiametta. As a courtesan she is subject to ugly humiliations during the night. Then the story switches to Venice, a city rich by trade with the Ottomans and Jews. A city of promise where the pair tries to rebuild their life. I have never been to Venice, but this story makes we want to jump on the plane immediately. You experience the small dark streets and smelly water alleys through Bucino’s eyes and his special rational view on the world. I liked Bucino from the beginning, as he can be both invisible and attracting attention by his looks. This may not be Dunant’s best book. The plot is a bit slow and not so much happens. But it’s an atmospheric novel with interesting characters. The book is full of outcasts. A dwarf and a courtesan, a converted Jew, a Turk and a blind widow to name just a few. Towards the end, you want to know if Bucino and Fiametta will make it together or not. And for the art lovers, you get a behind-the-scenes look of the painter Titian creating his ‘Venus of Urbino’. I loved these parts! https://inanotherera.wordpress.com/20... --- Dutch review: Bucino is een lelijke dwerg die samen leeft en werkt met Rome's meest befaamde courtisane Fiametta. Wanneer de Spanjaarden en Duitsers de stad plunderen moeten ze na een persoonlijk drama de stad ontvluchten. Ze trekken naar Fiametta's geboortedorp Venetië en proberen er opnieuw een bestaan op te bouwen. Ze krijgen de hulp van La Draga, een blinde genezeres die wel vaker voor heks wordt aanzien en Arentino, een satirische dichter die ze nog kennen vanuit Rome. Sarah Dunant is een van mijn favoriete schrijfters omdat ze Renaissance Italië zo tot leven kan brengen. Dit was het laatste boek dat ik nog van haar moest lezen dus ik hoop dat ze snel nieuw werk uitbrengt. Want hoewel ik dit niet haar beste roman vind, heb ik enorm genoten. De eerste hoofdstukken over de plundering van Rome zijn levensecht en je zit meteen in het verhaal. Maar wanneer we naar Venetië trekken omschrijft ze die 16de eeuwse stad op een heerlijke manier. Het moet nog fijner lezen als je er al eens bent geweest. Bucino is een zalig hoofdpersonage omdat hij zo apart is en zo'n klare kijk heeft op alles. Het hele boek zit vol personages die net niet bij de maatschappij horen. Een blinde weduwe, een dwerg, een hoer, een bekeerde jood en een Turk. Het lijkt het begin van een mop, maar het is gewoon een goed verhaal. Dit boek gaat ook over schilderkunst. Ik had pas halverwege het boek door dat Tziano de Italiaanse schrijfwijze is van Titiaan, de bekende schilder. Ook hij maakt dus zijn optreden in dit boek. Dit is een boek waar je moet van houden. Er gebeurt niet zo veel en toch sleept het je mee.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pauline Montagna

    I was rather disappointed in Sarah Dunant’s previous venture into Italian historical fiction so I approached this book with some reservations. Happily I found it to be a much more successful novel. The story begins in 1527 on the eve of the infamous Sack of Rome. The dwarf Bucino goes to the walls of Rome to find out the latest news for his mistress, the beautiful courtesan Fiammetta. Warned of the imminent arrival of a marauding army of war-hardened Spaniards and fanatical Protestant Germans, Fi I was rather disappointed in Sarah Dunant’s previous venture into Italian historical fiction so I approached this book with some reservations. Happily I found it to be a much more successful novel. The story begins in 1527 on the eve of the infamous Sack of Rome. The dwarf Bucino goes to the walls of Rome to find out the latest news for his mistress, the beautiful courtesan Fiammetta. Warned of the imminent arrival of a marauding army of war-hardened Spaniards and fanatical Protestant Germans, Fiammetta devises an ingenious strategy. Rather than run or hide, she will charm the invaders with her wit and beauty. The plan almost succeeds, but even the resourceful courtesan cannot escape the city’s fate. Having been stripped of her beautiful hair and most of her belongings, Fiammetta persuades Bucino to join her in escaping to Venice where she was born. There, with the help of a hunchback and half blind wise woman, known as La Draga, Fiammetta slowly regains her beauty and confidence and re-establishes herself as a successful courtesan. A large part of the novel’s charm lies in its depiction of Venice, its culture and its physical beauty, all the more engaging as the city is seen through the eyes of a narrator, Bucino, who arrives in Venice already prejudiced against it, but who unconsciously comes to love it. But fundamentally, its major success lies in its characters. Each of them is well-rounded and finely drawn, especially Bucino. And there, I feel, lies the reason why this is a much more successful novel than The Birth of Venus. Here, Ms Dunant has not attempted to get inside the Italian family, an insular institution not easily penetrated by the unfamiliar, but has instead created a cast of outsiders who are therefore free to create individual lives and forge unique relationships, thus creating a much more credible and engaging story. This is a novel I can highly recommend.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I really enjoyed this book. It's beautifully written and incorporates several of my favourite things...Italy, art and of course history. The story focuses on Fiammetta, who is a Roman courtesan and her pimp/sidekick Bucino, whom happens to be a dwarf. During the sack of Rome, they flee with a few choice possessions, (jewels) and money, to Venice. Venice is the birth state of Fiammetta, her mother still lives there, or so she believes. On arrival, things aren't as they should be. I won't go into I really enjoyed this book. It's beautifully written and incorporates several of my favourite things...Italy, art and of course history. The story focuses on Fiammetta, who is a Roman courtesan and her pimp/sidekick Bucino, whom happens to be a dwarf. During the sack of Rome, they flee with a few choice possessions, (jewels) and money, to Venice. Venice is the birth state of Fiammetta, her mother still lives there, or so she believes. On arrival, things aren't as they should be. I won't go into details as I don't want to spoil the story. Fiammetta and Bucino build a life for themselves, with the help of La Draga, a hunchbacked, blind, healer and are soon back in the position they were in when in Rome. They have good, wealthy clients, a nice house with beautiful fittings and a few members of their own staff. Events happen and the situation changes. There is a thief in their midst. Who? Bucino makes it his mission to discover what happened and there are dire consequences. The story is written from the point of view of Bucino. There is absolutely no romanticisation of the life of a courtesan. We see a more real side to how an Italian courtesan and her pimp would have lived. With the addition of several real Venetian people, you get the added factual element and with the artist Titian, a little bit of art history. I loved the reference to Murano and the famous glass made there, that really appeals to my love of all things antique. The author provides a thorough historical note and also a thorough author's note at the end. You can tell by the story, how we'll researched it is and I'd say fairly accurate to it's time. She also provides an extensive bibliography.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paula Berinstein

    When I read historical fiction, I'm often struck by how boisterous people were in the past. Whether this is because many authors choose to write about lively people and places or whether the past was noisier and less private than now I'm not sure. Certainly that seems to be the case here. Of course when you start with the sack of Rome what do you expect, but even when the narrative gets past that, the overwhelming feeling--at least for me--is of noise and action. What a wonderfully immersive env When I read historical fiction, I'm often struck by how boisterous people were in the past. Whether this is because many authors choose to write about lively people and places or whether the past was noisier and less private than now I'm not sure. Certainly that seems to be the case here. Of course when you start with the sack of Rome what do you expect, but even when the narrative gets past that, the overwhelming feeling--at least for me--is of noise and action. What a wonderfully immersive environment the author builds! I loved this book, not just for the gorgeous but accessible writing, but because it made me wonder. I kept imagining what life was like for Fiammetta--the courtesan of the title--and her partner, the dwarf Bucino. When they were at the height of their profession they were dazzling, but yikes--all the work that went into getting and keeping them there! Outwardly glamorous, they worked their butts off every day to maintain their image. The day-long beauty treatments, the "marketing," the household management, the security were all-consuming. But for them, this was what was necessary to survive. Despite the subject matter, I did not find this a sexy book. Thrilling, suspenseful, sumptuous, and engrossing, yes, but not erotic, so if you're looking for sex scenes, I'd look elsewhere. But if you love history and Italy and unusual characters, you might want to give it a try.

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