The Sixteen Pleasures – Robert Hellenga

This is the first book of a 2 book part by Robert Hellenga. I had reviewed The Italian Lover earlier in the year, and after reading the book group guide in the back of my trade paper back, and finding out that there was a first installment, I looked about and was able to find a copy at my local library.

The Sixteen Pleasures is about Margot going to Italy as part of a consortium of book conservators that went after the flooding in Florence in 1966. Margot wasn’t really wanted to go, but she went on her own account and money to see if she could lend a hand. Her boss didn’t want her to go, because he would be going and he needed her to take his place in the US.

During her journey there, on a rail car, she comes across 2 Americans that assume that she is Italian (only because she is speaking Italian) and overhears their conversations about a multitude of things including how they both had sex with the same professor. But once they find out that she is an American things take a turn.

Once in Italy, she is amazed at the amount of damage that the flood has caused. When finding or attempting to find paid work or to at least help out in any way she can, she comes across a fellow that is more then willing to help her and finds her a place in a convent none the less to help with their conservancy issues in their library.

This is where it gets interesting…

She comes across a book that is in very bad shape. But upon further perusal, she finds it is not only one book, but two that have been bound together. The 2nd book, just happens to be some sort of pornography from the Renaissance era which features 16 erotic drawings along with text.

At first, she isn’t sure as to what exactly it is, until one of her colleagues tell her it was engraved by Giuilo Romano and that all copies were destroyed by the Vatican. But it seems as though one copy hadn’t.

On this journey of love, art, conservancy and of course Italy, I was so drawn in among the sights and sounds of a country and a different way of life. Although, I have visited Malta, and is considered the same culture – Siestas, Food, Etc, I can fondly recall the lazy days of just walking through the streets, going to museums, and libraries and taking in all of the historic and cultural things that they had to offer. How I miss those days I spent in the middle of December where here in Canada it was -40 and when I was there it was +20.

I was in awe and in amazement with the insides of the churches – the art on the ceilings, the architecture, just the way of life in general. Just a word of advice…if you ever go for mass in one of those amazing churches, don’t bring a young child that can overshoot all of the parishioners in the large church, and then be kicked out for making too much noise…

I am just curious though, the sixteen pleasures was published in 1995, and The Italian Lover was published in 2007. I wonder why it took such a long time to publish the 2nd instalment.
Reading Group Guide


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