Skip to main content
PBS logo

Search - The Sixteen Pleasures

The Sixteen Pleasures
The Sixteen Pleasures
Author: Robert Hellenga
"I was twenty-nine years old when the Arno flooded its banks on Friday 4 November 1966. On Tuesday I decided to go to Italy, to offer my services as a humble book conservator, to save whatever could be saved, including myself." — The Italians called them "Mud Angels," the young foreigners who came to Florence in 1966 to...  more »
Info icon
ISBN-13: 9780385314695
ISBN-10: 0385314698
Publication Date: 5/1/1995
Pages: 384
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.

3.3 stars, based on 92 ratings
Publisher: Delta
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Sixteen Pleasures on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I was originally interested in the title, but was happily surprised to find the story to be much more emotionally satisfying. This is a Life Journey, there are no grand sex scenes, but there are many wonderful, small moments in this woman's life that make it a pleasurable read. At times the story wanders, but whose life doesn't?
reviewed The Sixteen Pleasures on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book is one that I have given away again and again. If you are traveling to Florence it's a must read. If you are not traveling to Florence you will put Florence on yours bucket list when you read it. Hellenga's two great books are The Fall of the Sparrow (also given away many times) and The Sixteen Pleasures. I had to laugh reading the review the complained there wasn't any sex in THIS book. I read it over ten years ago and remember it as extremely erotic (FYI - Sparrow is FULL of sex). This is Hellenga at his best, combining philosophy, the Arts (high and low), and passion (high and low) to tell the story of human love and suffering. I felt the pleasure and the sorrow of standing in awe before some of the most fragile and moving religious art in the world, knowing that nothing can save that art forever just as nothing can save our human bodies and our grand passions from inevitable loss. At various times we all struggle with the question: What's it all about? At various times in Hellenga's writing life he has provided a splendid and very pleasurable response.
reviewed The Sixteen Pleasures on + 88 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
In 1966, 29-year-old Margot Harrington heads off to Florence, intent on doing her bit to protect its precious books from the great floods--and equally intent on adventure. Serendipity, in the shape of the man she'll fall in love with, leads her to an abbey run by the most knowing of abbesses and work on its library begins. One day a nun comes upon a shockingly pornographic volume, bound with a prayer book. It turns out to be Aretino's lost erotic sonnets, accompanied by some rather anatomical engravings. Since the pope had ordered all copies of the Sixteen Pleasures burned, it could be worth a fortune and keep the convent autonomous. The abbess asks Margot to take care of the book and check into its worth: "We have to be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves," she warns.
Soon our heroine finds her identity increasingly "tangled up" with the volume and with Dottor Postiglione, a man with an instinct for happiness--but also one for self-preservation. Margot enjoys the secrecy and the craft (the chapters in which she rebinds the folios are among the book's finest). Much of the book's pleasure stems from Robert Hellenga's easy knowledge, which extends to Italian complexities. Where else would you learn that, in cases of impotence, legal depositions are insufficient: "Modern couples often take the precaution of sending postcards to each other from the time of their engagement, leaving the message space blank so that it can be filled in later if the couple wishes to establish grounds for an annulment." Luckily, however, there are also shops that sell old postcards, "along with the appropriate writing instruments and inks."
Read All 14 Book Reviews of "The Sixteen Pleasures"

Please Log in to Rate these Book Reviews

reviewed The Sixteen Pleasures on + 7 more book reviews
This "exquisite novel of spiritual longing and earthly desire" blends intrigue, sensuality and search for purpose in a fascinating plot involving a young book conservator, a priceless Renaissance masterwork and and the flooded banks of Florence in 1966.
reviewed The Sixteen Pleasures on + 32 more book reviews
Another wonderful book about the love of books, with a mystery, of course!
reviewed The Sixteen Pleasures on + 9 more book reviews
Good but not great. The blurb on the back made it seem like it was going to be a lot better than it was. (In my opinion.)