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In the Company of the Courtesan

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

In the Company of the Courtesan - Ryan Crochet

In her novel, In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant is able to mix fantasy and reality in a most entertaining fashion. By intermingling characters of her own creation with actual people who lived in 16th century Italy she creates a world in which the two main c...
In her novel, In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant is able to mix fantasy and reality in a most entertaining fashion. By intermingling characters of her own creation with actual people who lived in 16th century Italy she creates a world in which the two main characters, Fiammetta Bianchini and Bucino Teodoldi, take on roles of seeming historical significance.

In the Company of the Courtesan is the story of Bucino Teodoldi, a dwarf in the service of Fiammetta Bianchini, an Italian courtesan, during the sacking of Rome. After opening her home to the attacking soldiers in order to escape death for herself and her servants, Fiammetta is forced to flee with Bucino to her hometown of Venice to escape when her plan is turned against her. The story follows the efforts of Bucino and the healer La Draga to nurse Fiammetta back to health and her subsequent re-entry into the world of Venetian courtesans.

Dunant introduces historical figures and events throughout the novel in order to advance her story. She begins with the sacking of Rome in 1527, an event which did, in fact, occur. Dunant speaks of the Lutherans and their attack on the city as well as their siege of Pope Clement VII, who was in reality the pope at that time, and who Dunant linked to the fictional Fiammetta. This is the first of the notable instances in which her fictional characters are linked to historical figures. Another important link between fiction and reality is created when Fiammetta meets and subsequently models for the painter Tiziano Vecelli, more commonly known in the art world as Titian. By forging this link, Dunant is able to position Fiammetta as the subject of one of Titian's most famous paintings, the "Venus of Urbino," which serves to portray Fiammetta as a woman who has great historical significance even though she never actually existed. It is these fabricated links between the fictional and the factual that allow the reader to suspend reality and surrender to the story, even if the reader is properly educated in matters of both history and art.

Dunant also uses historical events and locations to lend the novel an air of authenticity. Beginning with the previously mentioned sacking of Rome, Dunant is able to place Fiammetta and Bucino in an environment which is believable, if not necessarily familiar to the reader. Additionally, the use of such locales as Venice and the islands surrounding Italy give the reader the ability to follow the plot geographically. Dunant is able to use fictional characters in places such as the Jewish Ghetto to not only advance the plot but to involve the reader in plot lines outside of the main. Likewise, the inclusion of varied locales is also able to advance the story of Bucino and to develop the character of his would-be love interest, La Draga, with Bucino at one point following her not only to her home within Venice, but also to her home island off of the Italian coast.

By mixing historical fact with fictional creation Sarah Dunant is able to create a believable world for her characters to live, work, love, and die in. She intertwines the two with what at times appears to be surgical precision, developing a story which rarely lags and is greatly entertaining, from the sacking of Rome to the Venice of the 16th century. The reader is able to develop emotional attachments and connections with the fictional characters because they are so skillfully placed in a world of historical fact.

posted by RyanC on November 11, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

At first, it looks like an interesting read, but the story told from the dwarf's point of view flattens the story....

I chose to purchase this book because it took place in Venice and was interested in reading about life back in the 1500's. There were no elements in the story to keep me interested (element of suprise, romance, mystery, twists and turns,). Disappointed in this book as...
I chose to purchase this book because it took place in Venice and was interested in reading about life back in the 1500's. There were no elements in the story to keep me interested (element of suprise, romance, mystery, twists and turns,). Disappointed in this book as it was not what I thought it would be and it says on the cover it is a "New York Times Bestseller." Not much action taking place from the Courtesan's standpoint. The story revolves mostly around the dwarf's and La Draga's issues. If you are really interested in reading the book, borrow it from the library......

posted by historicalfiction_fan on March 20, 2010

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  • Posted November 21, 2008

    tragedy upon tragedy

    An employee of Barnes & Noble suggested I buy this along with my purchase of Susan Griffin's The Book Of The Courtesans. I am glad I did as it was a fun and easy read, but these poor characters never get a break. It seems a happy ending is always just out of grasp. If you like that kind of amusing frustration then this is the book for you. Expect physical violence and detailed descriptions of dirty peasants.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2006

    Not a great story

    Fabulous plot? Fascinating? Well written?Engrossing read? I don't know what other reviewers were reading. It definitely wasn't worth 4 or 5 stars. This story started off ok, but never built up to an exciting ending. I wouldn't recommend it to any of my friends.

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