The Sixteen Pleasures

The Sixteen Pleasures - Robert Hellenga Needing a change and some adventure in her life, Margot Harrington felt a calling to travel to Florence in 1966 to aid in the restoration of art and books after the famous flood. Many foreigners arrived in the city, but Margot was a little removed from the other “Mud Angels” because she was an experienced antique book restorer and she was very familiar with Florence, having lived there for several years as a child. Circumstance leads her to end up living at and working in the library of an impoverished abbey. The nuns entrusted to help her rescue the waterlogged books come across an old prayer book, but this was no ordinary prayer book. This book is bound together with another small book – the banned (thought lost) erotic poems of Aretino.

Margot first lovingly restores the book and then entrusted by the, surprisingly worldly, Abbess attempts to sell the volume to help the abbey. Her lover tries to undermine her sale to make a profit for himself. The Abbot, to whom the Abbess reports, forbids her to sell the banned book and life itself seems to be throwing out roadblocks every step of Margot’s way. Never one to be daunted, Margot persists with her quest leading to some interesting adventures.

From the title of the book and the “blurb” I read describing it I expected this book to be an “erotic” adventure. And, in a small way it was, but it was mostly about Margot finding herself. I enjoyed the story but as so often happens in works of historical fiction, I enjoyed the descriptions of Florence, the flood and the restorations even more, particularly the book restorations and the “peeling” of the water damaged frescoes.