Jennifer Reese
February 10, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

In the Company of the Courtesan

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Sarah Dunant
publisher
Random House
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

If you like your escapism laced with earthy historical detail and overripe metaphors, you could do worse than Sarah Dunant’s follow-up to her 2004 best-seller, The Birth of Venus. Set in 16th-century Venice, the new romance, In the Company of the Courtesan, ushers us into the piano nobile of beautiful courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini (her hair is like ”a golden river in spring flood, its hues as rich as the rush of the waters; streams of white gold and sunflower…”), who bleaches her skin with dove entrails, whitens her teeth with rosemary, and sleeps with any man who can put up the ducats. Her soulful dwarf sidekick, Bucino, narrates a story dominated by endless descriptions of his mistress’ loveliness and bizarre cosmetics, until a long-simmering subplot comes to a satisfying boil in the last 50 pages.

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