Saturday, July 17, 2010

In the Company of the Courtesan - Sarah Dunant

Rated: C

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 punishment.
Thus begins IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN, Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of life in Renaissance Italy. Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, 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 squalid.
With 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 her...


I was a little disappointed in this novel. I had thought I had read Birth of Venus by Dunant, but it turns out for some reason I confused it with The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland (I know, total sacrilege to the art students out there). I feel a bit sorry for the book because of this - it isn't fair to compare anyone to Vreeland, who is one of my absolute favourite authors.

Because I started with that standard in mind, the book was just a little trashier than I would have liked. Granted, it IS about a courtesan, but the prose itself is just...vulgar. Again, granted this is probably for the above stated purpose, but I just didn't enjoy it as much. Unfortunately it is really hard for me to separate the two books in my mind. Everything about this book was just...less complex. Not simple, per se, but just not as tightly woven as a Vreeland book. I also prefer more introspective and philosophical moments than this book displays. I think the reason I am having difficulty critiquing this book is because I feel like it is a book I should like - but because I was deceived (by myself, sadly) I feel strangely let down.


An ok book. Weak prose, but a stable story line/plot. I didn't really like it, but I don't feel it's any reason any one else shouldn't like it.


Chick lit, historical fiction

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