In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant (unabridged audiobook read by Stephen Hoye; 14 hrs on 12 discs): Our story begins with the 1527 sack of Rome, and famous courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini is readying her household for the soldiers’ arrival. She and her dwarf companion Bucino, who narrates this tale, flee to Venice to start their lives over again. The description pulls no punches, as it were, laying it all bare without nary a euphemism in sight. But it’s not just crudeness and filth that is described this way, but great beauty and purity is as well. All in all, a sumptuous presentation of Renaissance Italy as told through the eyes of a cranky dwarf. I wish there had been more plot – I would have liked to know more about what happened to the Jew and the Turk, for example, and that more ends had been tied up by the end – but I suppose that isn’t always possible with first-person narration, and the looseness of the story did make it feel more realistic. I especially appreciated the historical notes at the end, explaining which characters were based on real people and where things deviated from fact. It appears there’s nearly as much history as fiction in this historical novel. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more by Dunant.

A note on the audio: Hoye was just okay. He didn’t really do any distinct character voices, which is fine, but he also didn’t pause enough between speakers so sometimes dialogue ran together and I lost track of who was speaking. And while I roll my eyes at people who insist on British accents for any English-language film not taking place in America, this book probably would have sounded better read by an Englishman. It seems to have been written with that cadence in mind.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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