Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: Sixteen Pleasures

Author: Robert Hellenga
Format: trade paperback, 384 pgs
Subject: restoration of rare books; romance in Italy
Setting: Florence Italy 1966
Source: borrowed from a friend

I'm not sure yet how I feel about this book. I read it for a book discussion group that will meet later this week, and I'm curious to see how this group related to this fictional account of a young American book conservator who goes off to Florence in 1966 to help restore books damaged in the great flood. The parts having to do with the city and the techniques of restoration I found fascinating. But the parts about the romance....

Margot, the heroine discovers a volume of illustrated love poems showing what are generally regarded as pornographic sketches of the 16 pleasures referred to in the poetry. The book is bound within a prayerbook and is on the shelves of the convent where she is boarding. The Abbess asks her to restore it and then see if she can sell it without the bishop knowing since his Eminence would then take away the book and either destroy it, or sell it and keep the money.

Margot meets an urbane romantic Italian (natch!) although to me he is the typical bodice ripping Italian stud.. they embark on a romance while restoring the book, and trying out the 16 pleasures themselves. The blurb calls this an erotic book about an erotic book. Using my limited Italian, I'll wave my hand side to side up and down, and say mezzo, mezzo Not all that erotic, and I'm really not sure I care for the ending. It was worth reading for the memories of Florence and the info about how the books were saved.


  1. Wow! This novel has been sitting on the shelves at my local Goodwill for months and I've always wanted to read it but never knew about the plot because the cover is missing! It sounds intriguing, if there are a few problems.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. I read the sequel to this one and found it interesting. The best parts of the book were the descriptions of Italy.


Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.