Recommended by Lindsey Alexander
Sarah Dunant’s second Italian Renaissance novel begins during the sacking of Rome.
While hundreds of affluent Romans are losing their homes and their lives to the Lutherans, charming courtesan Fiammetta and her companion dwarf Bucino escape and head for the shimmering, decadent city state of Venice.
Almost choking on the jewels they have swallowed but beginning life again with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs, the pair embark on a plan to re-establish Fiammetta’s courtesan empire and lure the city’s finest in.
Through Bucino’s narration we are drawn into the seedy and hypocritical Venetian underworld where the Church’s corrupt morals are there for all to see.
This is far more than the tale of a ‘working girl’ but an amazing story about the sins of pleasure and the pleasure of sin encapsulated in a historical, yet fictional, setting.
Dunant’s first novel ‘The Birth of Venus’ set in Florence during the time of Savoranola’s uprising is equally enlightening and enjoyable.