Wednesday, 10 December 2014

History of a Pleasure Seeker: Review

Author: Richard Mason
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Adult Fiction
Originally published in: 2011
Pages: 280

"There is no adventure in staying at the same place"

When you want to visit Amsterdam, you book a flight and you go there for the weekend. When you want to see Amsterdam as it was in 1907, during the Belle Époque - things get a bit trickier. The best solution I find to this wanderlust, is reaching for History of a Pleasure Seeker.

The story is about Piet Barol - a young man with humble beginnings, who leaves the Dutch province in order to be a tutor for the son of a wealthy family in Amsterdam. While residing in their mansion, Piet has the opportunity to observe everyone living there - from the servants, to the masters - quietly finding out everyone's secrets, seducing them one by one. His intelligence and his charisma prove to open a lot of doors - an ambitious young man at the dawn of the 20th century, Piet will use all his carefully manufactured qualities in order to succeed in life. Which, for him, means wealth and indulgence.

History of a Pleasure Seeker is wonderfully written by Richard Mason - marvellously witty, it is a combination of humour and erotica, making it a great read for both hot summer nights and chilly winter evenings. Have you ever thought that your usual period drama lacks a bit of sexuality? History of a Pleasure Seeker is the one for you then. It is both a period piece that gives a greatly detailed look into the Dutch society of the Belle Époque, and a deeply erotic story. The characters are developed to a very intimate level - by examining their sexuality, Mason paints a more thorough picture of their true natures. He reflects on the effects of sexual repression, the nature of desire and how one deals with it - as we keep reading, we see that Piet is a man of many pleasures, who is not afraid of experimenting in order to satisfy his wants.

“The adventures of adolescence had taught Piet Barol that he was extremely attractive to most women and to many men. He was old enough to be pragmatic about this advantage, young enough to be immodest, and experienced enough to suspect that it might be decisive in this, as in other circumstances.”

This is the kind of novel that heavily relies on its main character. And what a protagonist we have here! Piet is handsome, intelligent, ambitious and witty - he knows what he wants and seemingly, nothing will stop him on his way to getting it. The world of money and pleasures is his aim, and in pursuing it he becomes less and less apologetic. Even though you might question some of his decisions, there is something to admire in a man who is so strongly driven to achieve his goals.

The book is not for the fainthearted – if you are used to rosy romances, this is not the one for you. The matter of sex is a driving force for this novel, so there are more than one or two erotic scenes, and they are all described with quite the detail. This is what is so great and refreshing about it – just because the story is situated during sexually repressed times, long before the sexual revolution changed the way we talk about sex, it does not mean that people were not having it. And do not think that those moments are just thrown in the book in order to make it spicier or to provoke its readers – on the contrary, these erotic scenes will help you understand the characters more. Reading about it will give you a far better idea of who Piet, Jacobina and Maarten are. Some detail might make you feel uncomfortable, yes, but this is the kind of daring writing that I love – everything feels real: there is no sugar-coating, but no unnecessary brutalities either.

A great read, History of a Pleasure Seeker is the kind of novel that grips you from the start and holds your attention till the very end – it won’t take you a lot of time to finish this one. It is that enjoyable. 

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