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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 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. 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 poetTitian, the artist with the fictional Fiametta, Bucino, La Draga, etc works very well in the novel They come boldly and fabulously aliveand we are left standing beside them with all of their hardship, grandeur, and decadencethanks to the consummate and very gifted wordsmith that is Sarah Dunant I can hardly wait for her next novel 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 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. 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 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. 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. 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 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. |FREE PDF ♐ In the Company of the Courtesan ⚇ 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 PunishmentThus Begins In The Company Of The Courtesan, Sarah Dunant S Epic Novel Of Life In Renaissance Italy Escaping The Sack Of Rome In , 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 SqualidWith 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 HerYet As Their Fortunes Rise, This Perfect Partnership Comes Under Threat, From The Searing Passion Of A Lover Who Wants 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 AllA 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 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 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. 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. 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 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 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.