The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga


This recommendation by Mary Susan was published in 1995.  It is the story of a 30ish book conservator who goes to Florence to help with the recovery after the flood in 1966.  She is an enormously appealing character — how does he do that? — that the reader is pleased to be around.  The background of the art, books and buildings in jeopardy enriches the story.  It all seems very real and believable.  Margot, who narrates most of the time, helps recover books in a nunnery.   In the course of cleaning and repairing the books, an erotic book (with illustrations, no less) is discovered to have been bound with another book.  While this is an interesting and key part of the story, it is set aside for much of the action.  There is extensive detail about the actual recovery of books and while I happily read all of it, some of it might as well have been in a foreign language.  The range of activities is pleasing — Margo’s interesting young life and her family, the time in the nunnery, an affair with a sophisticated older Florentine man who was an art restorer, her experiences with Sotheby’s. 

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