Sunday, August 23, 2009

BOOK: In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, 400 pages

TBR Lite Challenge; celebrate the author

I loved Dunant's The Birth of Venus many years ago, and excitedly bought her sequel to read. The poor book languished on my shelf for several years, always going to be read next, but ultimately overlooked. So finally, I read Dunant's second book as her newest book, Sacred Hearts is making its rounds of the blogosphere, to rave reviews. So I feel like I am with it, reviewing a hot author, I'm only three years behind in the book I should be reviewing.

What I liked about the first book was the setting: 1400s in Florence, a city I was about to visit. Having read about the burning of the bonfires of the vanities, and then visiting the city was an amazing experience. In the Company of the Courtesan is set in 1500s Venice, and the descriptions of the canals and the city are fabulous again. On my Mediterranean trip, we ended out cruise in Venice and spent a wonderful day there, and this book has brought all those wonderful memories of Venice, and glass, and churches all back. Even back in the 1500s, the water in Venice is both beautiful and disgusting. But the city in some ways hasn't changed, and it was easy to imagine being there again.

For me, the setting was really the big part of the book. The story, narrated by Bucino, the courtesan's dwarf, was interesting, but not terribly plot driven. Most of the novel is the description of life in Venice, for the Courtesan, trying to make it in her birth city, after being driven out of Rome by the fighting. A cast of colorful characters are kept in line by Bucino, but it wasn't until the last one hundred pages that some twists happened that had me scurrying through to the end.

I liked that it wasn't a bodice ripper, with wild scenes, even though it was about a courtesan. It was more about the dwarf, and how he managed to make a life for himself, with power and money, at a time it couldn't have been easy.

That's me on the left with my sister. Oh, I'd love to go back to Italy! For now, I am left with reading great stories that take me back there, if only in my head for a while.


  1. This one was by far my favorite of the three Dunant's I've read. I'll be curious to see what you think of Sacred Hearts when you get to it.


  2. I read The Birth of Venus years ago, and just started Sacred Hearts yesterday... but I never read this one of which you speak... do think that's a problem? They "go together" but aren't really about the same characters, right? Or am I totally wrong?

  3. lezlie - I think I liked Birth of Venus better, but it's been quite a while since I read it. Eventually, I'll get to Sacred Hearts.

    suey - I didn't think they went together at all. It's just the time frame and Italy that they have in common. I think you are totally wrong!:)

  4. After looking at various reviews, I have concocted a theory that people who prefered Birth of Venus to Courtesan will like Sacred Hearts a lot. I can't wait to see if my theory holds true! :-)


  5. I am smitten with envy that you are going to Florence! :-) Thanks for the terrific review -- you've piqued my interest in this author.

  6. Oh I am so jealous of you visiting Florence! That is my dream destination! My blood is even green with envy right now! :P

    I am reading my first Sarah Durant novel right now- The Birth of Venus. I am only 3 chapters in, but I am already looking forward to seeing how Alessandra ends up with the serpent tattoo and as a nun!


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