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In the Company of the Courtesanby Sarah Dunant
Synopses & Reviews
1527. While the Papal city of Rome burns - brutally sacked by an invading army including Protestant heretics - two of her most interesting and wily citizens slip away, their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed as the enemy breaks down their doors. Though almost as damaged as their beloved city, Fiammetta Bianchini and Bucino Teodoldi - a fabulous courtesan and her dwarf companion - are already planning their future. They head for the shimmering beauty of Venice, a honey pot of wealth and trade where they start to rebuild their business. As a partnership they are invincible: Bucino, clever with a sharp eye and a wicked tongue and Fiammetta, beautiful and shrewd, trained from birth to charm, entertain and satisfy men who have the money to support her. Venice, however, is a city which holds its own temptations. From the admiring Turk in search of human novelties for his Sultan’s court, to the searing passion of a young lover who wants more than his allotted nights. But the greatest challenge comes from a young blind woman, a purveyor of health and beauty, who insinuates her way into their lives and hearts with devastating consequences for them all.
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.
Yet as their fortunes rise, this perfect partnership comes under threat, from the searing passion of a lover who wants more 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 all.
A 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Sarah Dunant has written eight novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Birth of Venus, and edited two books of essays. She has worked widely in print, television, and radio, and is now a full-time writer. Dunant has two children and lives in London and Florence.
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