on 1 March 1999
The story is set in 1966/67 after the flooding of Florence. Margot is a 29 year old trained book restorer who abandons her job at an American library to go to Italy and rescue books. Finding herself with no money and nowhere to live, she turns to fellow restorer Sandro, who finds her work and lodgings with a Carmelite convent run by his cousin.
Despite her initial reservations, Margot comes to love and enjoy the world of the convent, forming a strong friendship with the Abbess - Madre Badessa.
The so-called eroticism of the book lies in the discovery of a fobidden and fogotten valuable book of erotic drawings and poems. A book that is apparently so naughty that two of the young nuns who have been reading it are punished.
Madre Badessa trusts the rescue and disposal of book to the Margot and, almost inevitably, she and Sandro become lovers whilst working on the restauration of the volume. He subsequently lets her down badly but it would spoil things if I said more about that.
To describe the book as erotic is a joke - if you seek education then you'll find it in the attention to detail of the book restauration process. If you seek titillation then look elsewhere - the sex in this would hardly bring a blush to the cheek of the Abbess.
I bought the book in the USA where the cover synopsis suggested it was a book to be taken away in a plain brown wrapper. However, if you ignore the book's failure to deliver on the erotic front, you will find an enjoyable exploration of both book restauration and Margot's search for a place to call home - or as she calls it, "the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in"
on 6 April 2001
"The Sixteen Pleasures" is the story of a woman who, after the death of her mother from cancer, decides on the spur of the moment to rush off to Italy in order to rescue works of art damaged by the flood. She is assigned to a nunnery, where she uses her book-making skills to salvage their library. Stitched into a Bible are the plates of a book called "Sixteen Pleasures," an erotic manual banned by the Vatican and all copies destroyed. In attempting to salvage the pages, Margot finds herself coming to terms with her mother's life and death as well as her own. The author does an excellent job writing from the female point of view, the story is intriguing and well paced. I wanted to study book and paper arts after reading it.