• Book: The Sixteen Pleasures
  • Location: Florence
  • Author: Robert Hellenga



As a paper conservator myself I really wanted to like this book – and I did want to know how the ending would pan out. So, overall found it quite readable. Hellenga writes in a very readable and intelligent way, interspersed with Italian phrases and clearly has a lot of knowledge about art, Florence and conservation and intersperses the book with interesting facts (for example, the first important Convent library was established at Montepulciano in 1142). Yet….sometimes I almost wondered if I had drifted off and somehow lost the plot of the book. It starts out early with Margot on a train, overhearing some Americans talking about the instructor of their book workshop and how they bedded him, and it was at this point I had doubts about a man writing about the sexual exploits of women. As characters they never appear again, so they seemed a bit arbitrary. Further down the line, suddenly the words flip from 1st person narrative to 3rd in parts, and all of a sudden her alter ego Margeaux appears…eh, why?. And there is one chapter on Impotentia Coeundi whereby I sense the author discovered how one “does” divorce Italian style – and I felt it got milked to the nth degree, only it wasn’t that interesting after a couple of pages. So, in parts this book is interesting, in others it is a skim read! It does take you round the region, to Settignano and the cemetery there, and around Florence, and eateries, so it is good from the Florence perspective. Oh, and I learned a new word “to hornswoggle”!

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