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Extended Audio Sample The Sixteen Pleasures, by Robert Hellenga Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Robert Hellenga Narrator: Hillary Hube Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 save the city’s treasured art from the Arno’s flooded banks. American volunteer Margot Harrington was one of them, finding her niche in the waterlogged library of a Carmelite convent. Within its walls she discovered a priceless Renaissance masterwork: a sensuous volume of sixteen erotic poems and drawings.

Inspired to sample each of the ineffable sixteen pleasures, Margot embarks on the intrigue of a lifetime with a forbidden lover and the contraband volume—a sensual, life-altering journey of loss and rebirth in this exquisite novel of spiritual longing and earthly desire.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Although the pleasure of reading this book can hardly compare with any of the sixteen, still, I’d put it high on the list of pleasures one can have alone.”

    USA Today

  • “Elegantly moving…Everything about the narrator and heroine of this novel is appealing right from the first paragraph.”

    New Yorker

  • “Part mystery, part romance, part guidebook…A lively first novel that communicates the heady peril, as well as the adventure, of Florence after the flood.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Fascinating entertainment…with a sympathetic heroine, a suspenseful plot, a cast of colorful characters and illuminating meditations on life, art, and love.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Hellenga’s depth (and lightness) of characterization and description lift it high above its genre. And what better book than one about loving and loving books?”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “Graceful, assured prose, a wry but empathetic view of the human character, and an authoritative command of fascinating background detail are among the distinguishing features of this deeply satisfying first novel…It is remarkable that Hellenga, a recipient of a PEN fiction award for his short stories, can at this point in his career produce such a witty, sophisticated and wise novel, its erotic passages underscored by a poignant, even melancholic undercurrent of change and loss and flashes of existential meaning about the conflicting demands of spirit and flesh.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A rewarding read, with a witty heroine, a marvelous setting, and lots of fascinating detail about book conservation and the restoration of art.”


  • “A wonderfully rich and absorbing story that seems far too assured to be a first novel. Hellenga forms Florentine art, nuns, erotica, and American know-how into a kind of della Robbia arrangement of juicy forbidden fruit…Hellenga knows just how to build a story. The suspense he manages to create in a book auction scene rivals that of any thriller. In the course of mending books in Florence, Margot Harrington is releasing herself from the rigid bindings of her old life, and both processes prove to be absolutely compelling.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction
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About the Author

Robert Hellenga was educated at the University of Michigan and Princeton. He is a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and the author of the novels The Sixteen Pleasures, The Fall of a Sparrow, Blues Lessons, Philosophy Made Simple, Snakewoman of Little Egypt, and The Italian Lover.