Monday, April 10, 2006

In the Company of the Courtesan

I just finished this new Historical Novel by Sarah Dunant and found it to be very good. The characters involved, a Courtesan and her pimp, escape from the sack of Rome in 1527 and settle in Venice to rebuild their fortunes. The cover picture on the novel is supposed to be her, Titian's The Venus of Urbino. Dunant paints a magnificent portrait of Venice in the middle to late 16th Century. Publisher's Weekly says:

Renaissance Italy enchants in Dunant's delicious second historical (after The Birth of Venus), as a wily dwarf Bucino Teodoldo recounts fantastic escapades with his mistress, celebrated courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini. Escaping the 1527 sacking of Rome with just the clothes on their backs (and a few swallowed jewels in their bellies), Fiammetta and Bucino seek refuge in Venice. Starved, stinking, her beauty destroyed, Fiammetta despairs—but through cunning, will, Bucino's indefatigable loyalty and the magic of a mysterious blind healer called La Draga, she eventually recovers. Aided by a former adversary, who now needs her as much as she needs him, Fiammetta finds a wealthy patron to establish her in her familiar glory. Through Bucino's sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued narration, Dunant crafts a vivid vision of Venetian life: the weave of politics and religion; the layers of class; the rituals, intrigue, superstitions and betrayals. Dunant's characters—the steely courtesan whose glimpse of true love nearly brings her to ruin; the shrewd and passionate dwarf who turns his abnormalities into triumph; and the healer whose mysterious powers and secrets leave an indelible mark on the duo—are irresistible throughout their shifting fortunes.

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