In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

I have an affiliate relationship with and Malaprop's Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site. Read more on my affiliate page.

3.5 Stars

Bucino is a dwarf employed by one of the most favored courtesans of Rome, Fiammetta Bianchini. When Rome is sacked by Spaniards and Lutherans in 1527, Bucino and Fiammetta barely escape with their lives and a few jewels they managed to swallow. They are forced to start over again in Fiammetta’s native city of Venice. The going is slow at first, but they are both determined to rise to the top again, with the help of some unlikely accomplices.

I enjoyed reading this, I liked Bucino, and I truly enjoyed reading about Venice. But towards the end I started asking myself what the point of the whole thing was. It didn’t really seem to be going anywhere. When it did finally get to something like a conclusion, it was all over pretty quickly. I would have liked a little less build-up and a lot more exploration of the final conflict, for lack of a better word. As it was, I felt like the ending sort of came out of nowhere. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Also, looking back at the beginning of the book to remember how to spell Fiammetta’s full name, I realized that her character really wasn’t very consistent. Her moods and really her overall character seemed to shift to suit whatever needed to happen next in the book. Sometimes that makes a character seem more real, but in this case, it felt like the author didn’t know how to get the story where she wanted it to go without changing Fiammetta.

I would recommend this book if you’re going to Venice soon (I am! Lucky me!). I’m so excited to go see the places that Sarah Dunant described so well! But for a great Renaissance-era book set in Italy, I think I would recommend Susan Vreeland’s Passion of Artemisia instead. It’s been a while, but I remember that book pretty well, and I think In the Company of the Courtesan will fade pretty quickly from my mind.

Reviewed September 10, 2008

Read an excerpt.

Find author Sarah Dunant on her website and Twitter.

Buy In the Company of the Courtesan at


Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

I love to hear from you! Please contact me (menu bar, above) if you're having trouble commenting.