"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mud Angels

"I was twenty-nine years old when the Arno flooded its banks on Friday 4 November 1966." Thus begins the novel, "Sixteen Pleasures" by Robert Hellenga. It takes place in flood-ravaged Florence and sweeps you through frescoed chapels, museums, bookstores, and, finally, to the waterlogged library of a  Carmelite convent where the heroine discovers a priceless Renaissance volume of sixteen erotic poems and drawings, and we are immersed in the painstakingly delicate work of a book conservator.

They say that there are no new subjects to write about, only different ways to tell the story. Hellangra proves this to be untrue. At least I have never read anything like this before, a story that centers around the craft of book restoration while giving us a glimpse of the Renaissance and taking us on a delightful foray into the pleasure of erotica and human sexuality (our conservator is inspired to sample each of the sixteen) with an intriguing look at monastic life, all the while holding forth the recurring theme of home. "Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

I adored this novel and highly recommend it. It's one of those exquisite books that will stay with you long after you've closed the cover and turned off the light, satisfied.

One final thing: Robert Frost died fifty years ago yesterday. Master of the metaphor, he was admired then and now for his depictions of rural life. He was ambiguous in his writing and didn't answer the questions for you. "A poet lays out a metaphor and let you wrestle with it." That was Robert Frost.  He deserves his own post, but because of time constraints (I really am trying to ready my manuscript at long last for querying), I'll leave you with a few lines from my favorite Frost poem.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

10 comments:

Anthony Duce said...

I’ll definitely read the novel. Thanks.. Always can enjoy a little Frost too.

Anne Gallagher said...

That novel sounds delicious. Thanks so much for pointing me in the direction.

And best of luck getting your own work ready. I can't wait til it's out there.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Anthony,
I bet you would love it, considering your life's work. I found it mesmerizing.

Anne,
I don't do many reviews but once in a while I just have to pass on a recommendation. Thanks for the kind words. There are so many hard acts to follow...you as a case in point!

G-Man said...

Not my cup of tea, but I'm glad you liked it!
Thanks for stopping by Yvonne, and even though you were a bit too wordy today, have a Kick Ass Week-End...G

Steven J. Wangsness said...

My father gave me a book for Christmas a couple years ago that revolves around the restoration of an old Jewish text found in a library in Sarajevo after the Yugoslav civil war, so... Wish I could remember the name of it. The novel you describe sounds interesting, thanks.

Stay warm, if you can!

Yvonne Osborne said...

G-Man,
Thanks. Same to you.

Steven,
You still have it, right? I think stuff like that is interesting. Thanks!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've neither heard of the book or the author (hey, at least I've heard of Frost). But that isn't surprising since it's not a genre I read. It does sound good, though.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Stina,
I hadn't heard of it either until my sister recommended it and lent it to me. She's never steered me wrong. Thanks for commenting.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You're right, I don't think I've ever read a book like that before.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Diane,
Hi! Thanks for commenting on my little ol' post. I thought this was worth a shout out.