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In the Company of the Courtesan

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  18,688 ratings  ·  1,083 reviews
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 Renaiss
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Random House Trade (first published 2006)
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Best Historical Fiction
178th out of 5,393 books — 20,887 voters
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Art & Artists in Fiction
9th out of 469 books — 778 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
Doug Bradshaw
Jan 26, 2008 Doug Bradshaw rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historical novels
Recommended to Doug by: Angela Kesselman
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 ...more
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

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
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 ...more
JG (The 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,
Dec 14, 2007 Laurie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: peeps who aren't picky asses about detached narrative voices
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
Apr 22, 2008 Phyllis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all my friends
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
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 ...more
Achei o enredo muito interessante e mais ainda quando verifiquei que o narrador é um anão que tem uma relação de criado/amizade com uma cortesã. A acção central baseia-se essencialmente no processo que envolveu a crescimento da notoriedade de uma cortesã que se refugiou em Veneza após ter fugido de Roma devido à guerra. Gostei das descrições dos ambientes da altura e da sociedade, no entanto, considero que o desenrolar da trama é muito lento e muitas das vezes faz perder o interesse pela leitura ...more
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 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
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 ...more
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
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
Blodeuedd Finland
It was good, but for me bordering on ok at times. The times were interesting, the people, not so much.

It was told through the eyes of the dwarf Buchino, a most loyal servant and pimp to the courtesan Fiammetta. And I think this killed some of the goodness. See I did not really see the life of a courtesan. I saw the life of a servant. Who only saw her getting ready for things. He went out shopping and worried about money. I never knew Fiammetta, I did not like or dislike her. But it would have be
This book was headed for a 4.5 star rating (rounded up to 5) until it kind of fell apart at in the last quarter.

Obviously researched, the historical detail is lush and expertly woven into the narrative. No infodumps to be found, actually. My biggest problem was the voice of the narrator, the dwarf Bucino. It was very one-note, and I lost track of all the "My God!" and "Goddammit!" exclamations. It became kind of annoying after awhile. Mix it up a bit, little guy.

I also started to lose interest o
The beautiful cover of this historical novel is a detail from Titian’s Venus of Urbino, a painting which is referenced in the book. Sarah Dunant’s eighth novel In the Company of the Courtesan is set in 16th century Renaissance Italy, and it’s the follow-up to The Birth of Venus, (2003) which I read and enjoyed ages ago. In this sequel the dwarf Bucino Teodoldo, and his mistress Fiammetta Bianchini, escape the sack of Rome for Venice – where they must re-establish themselves in a new society wher ...more
In many ways this book is a disappointment. The writer writes beautifully. I cared about the characters. They were all quite different and you got to know them. What was missing was a plot.

Basically what you get in this book is two very well written short stories. In the first one two of the three protagonists get caught in the fall of Rome in the early 16th Century. How they survive what everyone around them doesn't survive and how they make their way out of Rome and to Venice is fascinating.

Clay Kallam
This is not rock-your-world historical fiction, but "In the Company of the Courtesan" is a fun read that sheds some (apparently) realistic light on an unexamined aspect of Renaissance culture: How high-priced prostitutes reached and maintained their status in society, and the price for success in that very old profession.

Fiammetta Bianchini is the heroine, and she has to flee the sack of Rome in 1527 and re-establish her business in Venice. She is beautiful and intelligent, a necessary combinati
A courtesan and her dwarf sidekick Bucino flee the 1527 sack of Rome only to reinvent their business in Venice. Fiammetta Bianchini is a top notch mistress trained to charm, entertain, and satisfy the men who are wealthy enough to support her. Although a renowned beauty, her true appeal is her wit which she used to escape rape and pillagement when the Spanish and Germans invade her home. Stealing away with only her dwarf companion and the jewels they have swallowed, they slowly make their way to ...more
This book was a major let down. The characters are not nearly as multi-dimensional as the ones in The Birth of Venus so it felt like the book was more of a puppet show. I was especially disappointed to find that the narrator, a dwarf, was not nearly as well wrought as Tyrion Lannister in George R R Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series, but I guess that is a high standard to beat. I was likewise disappointed that Fiammetta was highly predictable and not nearly as good a courtesan as Phèdre in Jac ...more
Na Companhia da Cortesã foi a minha estreia com a autora Sarah Dunant.

No inicio gostei imenso, mas há medida que ia avançando fui perdendo o interesse, chegando ao ponto em que tive de me forçar a ler. Na recta final, a história sofreu um twist que me voltou a prender ao livro.

Na minha opinião, a sinopse engana um pouco: “Contudo, à medida que vão ficando mais ricos, esta sociedade perfeita fica ameaçada - devido à paixão de um amante que quer mais do que as noites a que tem direito, e às atenç
This novel opens with a beautiful courtesan and her ugly dwarf of a servant fleeing the sacking of Rome in 1527. Not getting away unscathed, the courtesan Fiammetta has lost much of her looks and health, and they are living on the jewels they were able to smuggle out of Rome by swallowing them. Bucino the dwarf must help his mistress recover her beauty and her professional standing as they try and re-establish themselves in Venice. To help get Fiammetta back on her back earning them money, they ...more
There are a lot of great things going on this book, but in the end if fell a bit flat for me, never fully capitalizing on what could have been so fulfilling.

Things I liked:

* the story is set in Venice in the 1500's, at the height of the city-state's power
* the characters are unusual and interesting - a dwarf, a courtesan, a healer, and a cast of wealthy, corrupt Venetians/Romans
* The storytelling is good - the writing is solid and the voice is true to the era

Things I didn't like:

* the story see
I had the oddest feeling that the story was over half way through the book. I had a satisfactory resolution and couldn't kick the feeling that the second half of the book was there just to add pages. The first person narrative from the dwarf's perspective, which I had no problem with initially, really seemed to limit the latter part of the story. I kept wanting more details that could only have been supplied by other characters. I wanted to know more about the the pup, since it seemed such a piv ...more
Sarah Dunan is an expert here. You know quickly the characters; they are so three dimensional and have chracteristics that one recognizes and relates to easily, including the dwarf. Her research and fill-in are both great. I didn't put women's issues on this because so much of this is part of the period, and much has come in it's own way and is still present in much thinking. The book starts with the sack of Rome and the main characters move to Venice as well as some others that escape. It was p ...more
Este livro foi numa agradável surpresa. Confesso que não tinha grandes expectativas sobre ele e por vezes isso é o ideal. Uma história bem contada passada em Veneza, com todo o imaginário que dai advêm, contada por um anão que é "propriedade" e sócio de uma cortesã, que fugiram de Roma quando esta caiu em desgraça. Senti-me envolvida pela atmosfera e transportada para o local por isso recomendo a leitura desde livro a quem goste de uma leitura de algo passado noutros tempos com um toque de suspe ...more
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“If grace belongs to God, there are those who say that luck belongs to the Devil and that he looks after his own.” 10 likes
“Outside, the city is changing. While we have been talking of God's laws and seacrets of the earth, a cold fog has come rolling off the sea, pushing through the allys, sliding over the water, rubbing up agienst the cold stone. As I walk the street falls away behind me, the shop's blue awning lost within seconds. People move like ghosts, their voices disconnected from their bodies; as fast as they loom up they dissapear agien. The fog is so dense that by the time I have crossed toward the Merceria, I can barely see the ground under my feet or tell if the gloom is weather of the beginning of dusk.” 4 likes
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