Monday, January 9, 2012

History of a Pleasure Seeker

History of a Pleasure Seeker, by Richard Mason.

They looked at each other in silence. Now it was Jacobina who smiled, and when Piet did not look away, she felt embarrassed. But he was not, and his look conveyed this. She walked past him out of the room and climbed the stairs, wondering if he would follow. When he did, she took a key from the vase on the landing and let them both into her aunt's bedroom and locked the door behind them. But now the spur of her impulsiveness died, leaving her nonplussed and at a disadvantage. What if this young man had no idea? she thought.

But Piet Barol had every idea.

I haven't read anything else by Richard Mason, but this novel immediately draws you in to Piet's world - Amsterdam, 1907. He will be hired by the Vermeulen-Sickerts family as a tutor for their son, Egbert, who refuses to go outside. He will try not to be seduced, or try to seduce, Constance and Louisa, the young ladies of the house; but he makes no such promises with the matron, Jacobina, though of course they don't tell her husband, Maarten, what is going on between them. Jacobina and Maarten have been chaste for a long time, but she doesn't know it's because of a promise he made to God at one point in his life.

Piet is not content with having his run of the household, though, and as soon as Egbert is "cured," he books a cabin in a ship headed for South Africa, where he is to meet another cast of characters too.

This book has a lot of raunchy scenes, where Piet seduces and is seduced by both men AND women, but in a weird way it reminded me of The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (the exception being that it takes place in 1900s Amsterdam, not New York). The characters in the book, including Piet, will seduce you and make you want to finish the novel in one sitting, and it is interesting to see how the Vermeulen-Sickerts family members all differ from one another; Maarten made his riches himself, and now his daughters and wife need not ever work, but Louisa wants to open a clothing shop, an idea which Maarten eventually vetoes.

Some of the sex scenes are definitely not for everyone, but it was amusing to see how Piet seduces when need be and also at other times lets himself be seduced, and how he always ends up on his feet even when his money (and luck) are about to run out. The writing, too, ambles at more of a languid pace, but is very witty throughout.

History of a Pleasure Seeker will be in bookstores on February 14th. 4 stars out of 5.

*Author's Note: I was given a copy of this novel to review. All opinions listed, however, are my own.


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