I picked this book up at the library after reading and liking The Birth of Venus (BOV) by Sarah Dunant. In this novel she again sets her story in renaissance Italy, this time in the early 1500’s and in Venice. I had a no idea that Italy was in such turmoil during the renaissance but apparently it was and the story begins as famous Roman courtesan Fiammetta and her faithful servant Bucino must flee for their lives when Rome is sacked.
Bucino is the narrator and he happens to be a dwarf so there is a lot of exploration as with her last book about what it meant to be different in the character’s contemporary culture. Bucino is clever and loyal with a strong will –a good friend to Fiammetta – and when they reach Venice, starving and ill, the courtesan and the dwarf become business partners and set about to re-establish Fiammetta as a sought after Courtesan. They succeed with the help of another oddball – a deformed and blind healer woman named La Draga. The story goes on from there.
Bucino is an okay narrator but I found myself feeling more curious about Fiammetta and her inner dialogue. I personally would have loved if the book had used both to tell the story from their unique perspectives. It would have helped I think because the book drags – it is longer and has less tension than BOV and the pacing was off. It was also a little formulaic in its structure and themes, reflecting BOV quite closely including the not quite tragic but definitely poignant ending.
Overall impression was an okay book though a disappointment after the Birth of Venus.