Saturday, May 5, 2012

Book 20 History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

I read this book while I was on vacation and, because my computer was hopelessly broken (and required three days at the Apple Store to fix, but hey, it was free so no worries), I haven't been able to get around to it until now. This book is mostly about Piet Barol, a young, 20-something man living in Amsterdam in 1907. He's attractive - at least most women believe that he is - and he knows that he's attractive to most women, so he's going to capitalize on it to any extent possible. In essence, Piet wants to use this to make some money so that he can move up in the world and make a name for himself, in another country if possible. So, he takes a job as a tutor with the wealthy Vermeulen-Sickerts family; he will be tutoring their son, who suffers from such severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that he cannot leave his house without having a debilitating panic attack. Piet's role is to cure him of the OCD and the agoraphobia. As it turns out, however, the other members of the family (Mrs. Vermeulen-Sickerts in particular) also have strictures and fears that they need to be liberated from. Mason weaves into his story he 1907 stock crash and the building of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan as well as the undercurrents that are beginning to escalate into World War I. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I felt like I was truly on the canals of Amsterdam in the early part of the twentieth century. I also felt like Richard had the strict Victorian mores regarding sexuality intact, which makes the sexual tension experienced by Barol and his employers all the more salacious and just plain wonderful. I really enjoyed how Mason wrote as well - this book could easily have been tawdry and just plain awful with the sheer amount of sex that appears in it (think really bad Harlequin novel - there's a time and a place I guess but really too much of it gets really old really quickly). Instead, Mason somehow got it right - giving you just enough, just often enough and at just the right pace. So good and, because of how it ended, looks like there will be more of Piet Barol in our future and in Mason's. I can't wait.

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