The Sixteen Pleasures, Robert Hellenga

Recommended by: Trish’s blog

I’ve been reading this on and off for a while.  I don’t like it when this happens with a book – when I put the book down for a while, it looks so reproachful every time I see it, and eventually I often come to resent it and think reasons not to finish it.  In the case of The Sixteen Pleasures, I did feel guilty about abandoning it so callously, but last night I picked it up and finished it before I went to sleep.  (I stayed up later than I was going to stay up, and this morning I was so tired, and there was only decaf at work, which was like some sort of sick post-Christmas joke.)

The Sixteen Pleasures is all about a girl called Margot in 1966 who goes off to Florence to save books from floods, and she finds a shocking book of porn in a convent library where she is doing restoration.  It is very old and totally unique, and the nuns want to sell it for a lot of money in order to preserve and restore the convent library.  However, they must do this in secret so the bishop doesn’t find out and take the money for other purposes that will not help the convent library.  Bishops are so bossy.  I’ve always said so.  Also Margot falls in love.

I thought this book was pretty good, though it bogged down for me in the middle.  It sort of ditched the Aretino book (which is the erotic book) and got distracted telling about Margot and her lover and his divorce proceedings, which was less interesting to me.  I thought it was a bit precious when they were using Italian words to refer to their bits, and I was pleased when the story got back to Margot selling the book.  She is very sneaky and clever about it, and it was suspenseful.

Another thing is, this book made me never ever ever want to be a book preserver.  Not that I was ever going to be a book preserver, but now I actively don’t want to be.  The whole thing sounds totally not fun at all.  Er, but it was extremely interesting to read about.  I don’t mean to say it wasn’t.  I was very interested – I just never want to do it myself, ever.   And furthermore, however many books I read about Italy and how wonderful and marvelous and perfect it is, I can’t make myself yearn to go to Italy.  I know I should want to go, and I’m almost certain that I will love it if I ever do go, but I’d rather go to London.  (Lovely London!)  Which is why I stopped reading this and started reading Lonely Werewolf Girl, and also why I had to chuck Notes from a Small Island out of the bed in order to allow myself to carry on reading The Sixteen Pleasures.  I miss London.

2 thoughts on “The Sixteen Pleasures, Robert Hellenga

  1. Hmm … I’m starting over with my Amazon wishlist and I think this is the first one I’ll add to it. I’m a little wary of the relationship angle but it still sounds like an enjoyable read. Thanks for the review!

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