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Step back in time to Renaissance Venice with Sarah Dunant’s “In the Company of the Courtesan.” In this audiobook review, we’ll explore the author’s storytelling abilities and the richness of the story. Join us as we dive into the intricate plot, delve into the characters, and analyze the audiobook experience. Discover how Dunant captures the essence of the era, addressing underlying themes and symbolism that make this historical fiction a must-read (or -listen) for anyone who loves a captivating story.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sarah Dunant’s “In the Company of the Courtesan” is a fantastic historical fiction audiobook set in Renaissance Venice.
  • The intricate plot, well-developed characters, and atmospheric setting immerse the listener in the story.
  • The audiobook narration enhances the experience, making it a great choice for fans of historical fiction.
  • The novel explores themes such as love, power, and society’s norms, making it a thought-provoking read.
  • “In the Company of the Courtesan” is a highly recommended listen for anyone who loves a good story and is interested in Renaissance history.

Introduction to “In the Company of the Courtesan”

Transport yourself to the enchanting Renaissance Venice with “In the Company of the Courtesan” audiobook. Written by Sarah Dunant, a renowned historical fiction author, the story revolves around the life of Fiammetta Bianchini, a well-known courtesan, and her loyal companion, Bucino.

The book is set in the year 1527, amidst the turmoil of war, disease, and social unrest. The novel encompasses the alleys, canals, and palazzos of Venice, capturing the essence of the bustling city-state, with all its beauty and complexity. Through the eyes of Fiammetta and Bucino, we explore different aspects of this rich cultural hub, submerging ourselves in the vivid imagery and dynamic atmosphere.

As a historical fiction audiobook, “In the Company of the Courtesan” promises to provide an immersive experience that is both entertaining and educational. The narrative not only offers a glimpse into the intricacies of life in 16th century Venice but also highlights the struggles and triumphs of the characters, creating a sense of empathy and connection with the audience.

Sarah Dunant: The Author

Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant is an English writer, broadcaster, and critic. She was born in London, England, in 1950, and studied history at Newnham College, Cambridge. Dunant began her career as a broadcaster and cultural commentator on BBC Radio.

She is best known for her historical fiction novels, which explore themes of art, politics, religion, and gender during the Italian Renaissance. Dunant has won critical acclaim for her work, including the prestigious Costa Book Awards for her novel “The Birth of Venus.”

Dunant’s writing style is rich and evocative, immersing readers in the historical setting of her novels. Her extensive research and attention to detail bring the past to life, offering a glimpse into the complexities of Renaissance society. “In the Company of the Courtesan” is no exception, showcasing Dunant’s talent for historical fiction.

Through her writing, Sarah Dunant invites us to explore the past and its relationship to the present, prompting us to consider the enduring impact of historical events and figures on our lives today. Her work is a testament to the power of storytelling and its ability to expand our understanding of the world.

Plot Summary

Set in Renaissance Venice, “In the Company of the Courtesan” is a captivating story that follows the journey of the courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini and her dwarf companion, Bucino, as they try to rebuild their lives after the sack of Rome.

The novel opens with the two arriving in Venice, where Fiammetta begins working as a courtesan, and Bucino as her pimp. Along the way, they encounter various challenges and adventures, including battles with illness, political intrigue, and romantic entanglements.

Fiammetta’s clients include powerful men, including the wealthy merchant Domenico Venier, who becomes deeply infatuated with her. Despite her distaste for Venier’s behavior, Fiammetta finds herself growing closer to him, even as Bucino tries to protect her from harm.

As the story unfolds, we learn about Fiammetta’s tragic past and her struggles to find her place in a world that often marginalizes women. Through her relationship with Venier and other significant characters, she learns valuable lessons about human nature and discovers the value of true friendship.

The plot of “In the Company of the Courtesan” is expertly crafted, taking readers on a journey through the vibrant and dangerous city of Venice. Sarah Dunant skillfully weaves together various subplots, creating a complex and compelling narrative that will keep readers engaged until the final page.

Setting and Atmosphere

The city of Venice during the Renaissance period is a mesmerizing place full of beauty and intrigue, and Sarah Dunant captures this atmosphere perfectly in her novel, “In the Company of the Courtesan.” The rich tapestry of Renaissance Venice is brought to life through the author’s vivid descriptions and atmospheric details. From the bustling markets filled with merchants trading exotic goods to the magnificent palazzos lining the Grand Canal, the setting is as much a character as the main protagonists of the story.

The sounds, smells, and sights of Venice are seamlessly woven into the narrative, immersing the reader in a world of beauty and decadence that is both fascinating and dangerous. The author’s attention to detail is evident in her portrayal of the city, as she captures the essence of the era and brings it to life in a way that is both authentic and captivating.

Through her words, Sarah Dunant transports readers to Renaissance Venice, a place where art, culture, and politics collide, and where beauty and danger lurk around every corner. If you’re looking for an audiobook that will transport you to another time and place, “In the Company of the Courtesan” is an excellent choice.

Character Analysis

One of the strengths of “In the Company of the Courtesan” is its well-crafted characters. Dunant skillfully draws out the nuances and complexities of each of her characters, making them all memorable in their unique ways.

At the center of the narrative is Fiammetta Bianchini, a beautiful and successful courtesan. Despite her profession, Fiammetta is a sympathetic character, and the listener can’t help but feel invested in her journey. Her trusted companion and narrator of the story, Bucino Teodoldi, is another character worth exploring. As a dwarf and former jester, Bucino offers a unique perspective and challenges the listener’s preconceived notions about societal norms.

Other notable characters include Domenico Venier, Fiammetta’s wealthy and powerful patron, and his fiercely loyal wife, Elena Crusafont. Each of these characters has their motivations and desires that drive the story forward. Within the context of Renaissance Venice, the complexities and contradictions of human behavior are on full display.

Their relationships with each other are a key aspect of the story, and Dunant’s skillful portrayal of the dynamics between the characters is a highlight of the audiobook.

The character development in “In the Company of the Courtesan” is a testament to Dunant’s writing abilities. Through her writing, she brings each character to life, making them realistic, flawed, and above all, human.

Narration and Audiobook Experience


The audiobook version of “In the Company of the Courtesan” is a delightful listen that immerses the audience in the world of Renaissance Venice. Kate Reading’s narration quality is excellent, maintaining a consistent tone that brings the story to life. Her pacing is appropriate, creating a natural flow that keeps the audience engaged.

Additionally, the audiobook’s overall presentation is top-notch, providing listeners with a rich and immersive experience. The sound quality is excellent, allowing the audience to fully appreciate the depth and richness of Sarah Dunant’s storytelling. Moreover, the audiobook’s length is appropriate, giving enough time to enjoy the characters and the plot without becoming tedious.

Sample Table for Narration and Audiobook Experience:

Aspect Quality
Narration Excellent
Pacing Appropriate
Sound Quality Excellent
Length Appropriate

Overall, “In the Company of the Courtesan” delivers a remarkable audiobook experience that showcases the excellent narration skills of Kate Reading and the unparalleled storytelling talents of Sarah Dunant.

Themes and Symbolism

“In the Company of the Courtesan” by Sarah Dunant weaves themes of love, power, beauty and societal norms throughout the story. These themes are intrinsic to the world of Renaissance Venice and are used to paint a vivid picture of the time period in which the story takes place. Through the use of symbolism, Dunant successfully illustrates the realities of life in Renaissance Venice, highlighting both the splendor and the challenges of the time.

One of the primary themes of the book is love, portrayed through romantic and platonic relationships. As the characters move throughout the story, they explore the many different facets and forms of love, from passion to devotion to sacrifice.

Power is another significant theme that runs through the novel. Dunant delves into the complexities of power dynamics, including issues of social class, gender, and wealth. In a place where power was everything, the characters must navigate the intricate webs woven by those who hold it.

Finally, beauty and societal norms are tackled in this book. Dunant explores both the beauty and the darkness of Venice and the societal norms of the time. She uses imagery and symbolism to illustrate these themes, creating a vivid and compelling picture of Renaissance Venice.

Symbolism in “In the Company of the Courtesan”

Symbol Meaning
The Mirror Reflection of Vanity and Reality
The Mask Deception and Secrecy
The Labyrinth The Complexity of Life
The Carnival Illusion and Disguise

Dunant masterfully employs symbolism throughout the story to support these themes, adding depth and meaning to the already rich narrative. The symbols help the readers to understand the characters’ actions and emotions, as well as the broader context of the world they inhabit.

Writing Style and Language

Sarah Dunant’s writing style in “In the Company of the Courtesan” is both engaging and descriptive, capturing the essence of Renaissance Venice and its inhabitants. Her use of prose and dialogue effectively transports the reader/listener to another time and place, immersing them in the story. She expertly weaves in descriptive language to create a vivid sense of atmosphere.

The language in the audiobook is accessible without being simplistic, striking a balance between authenticity and readability. Overall, Dunant’s writing style and language contribute significantly to the overall reading/listening experience, bringing the story to life for audiences.


Writing Style Language
Skillful use of imagery to create atmospheric scenes and portray emotions. Rich descriptive language that captures the essence of Renaissance Venice.
Well-crafted dialogue that adds depth to characters and moves the story forward. Language that conveys the class and societal norms of Renaissance Venice.
Effective use of narrative voice to convey meaning and emotion. Vocabulary that is accessible and engaging without being overly simplified.

Overall, Sarah Dunant’s writing style and language in “In the Company of the Courtesan” are notable strengths of the audiobook and contribute to its overall success.

Critical Reception and Audience Response

Since its release, “In the Company of the Courtesan” has received mixed reviews from critics and readers alike. While some praise the book’s historical accuracy and impressive character development, others argue that the pacing is slow and that the storyline lacks depth.

One Amazon reviewer notes, “Dunant has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of Renaissance Venice. However, the plot felt a bit lackluster and predictable at times.” In contrast, a Goodreads reviewer writes, “I was captivated by the courtesan and her companion from start to finish. Dunant’s attention to detail is impeccable, and her writing style is easy to read and engaging.”

Overall, it seems that “In the Company of the Courtesan” is a book that many readers either love or hate. While the audiobook has received praise for its narrator’s captivating performance, it’s clear that the story itself is not for everyone.

Key Strengths:

  • Historical accuracy
  • Character development
  • Narration quality

Potential Criticisms:

  • Pacing
  • Lack of depth in the storyline

Despite its flaws, Sarah Dunant’s “In the Company of the Courtesan” continues to be a popular choice among fans of historical fiction. Its intricate portrayal of Renaissance Venice and its vibrant characters are sure to leave a lasting impression on any reader or listener.


Overall, “In the Company of the Courtesan” audiobook proves to be a captivating listen for fans of historical fiction. Sarah Dunant’s masterful storytelling and attention to detail transports listeners back to Renaissance Venice, immersing them in a world of beauty and intrigue.

The plot is intricate and engaging, with well-developed characters that showcase Dunant’s skill at creating relatable and nuanced personalities. The setting and atmosphere are lush and vivid, painting a rich picture of the time period.

The audiobook narration by Donada Peters is solid, keeping a steady pace and delivering the story with clarity and emotion. While the audiobook experience is overall enjoyable, some listeners may find the occasional mispronunciation or accent inconsistent with the story’s setting.

The underlying themes and symbolism within “In the Company of the Courtesan” provide ample material for discussion and reflection, elevating the story beyond mere entertainment.

Critics and audiences alike have praised the audiobook for its attention to detail, immersive atmosphere, and engaging characters. If you’re a fan of historical fiction or simply enjoy a well-told tale, “In the Company of the Courtesan” audiobook is definitely worth a listen.

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