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History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard…
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History of a Pleasure Seeker (2011)

by Richard Mason

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2341649,373 (3.39)2
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
How exquisite. So seductive. If there isn't a sequel the world will be a less sensuous place. Piet Barol reminds me of Nick Guest from [b:The Line of Beauty|139087|The Line of Beauty|Alan Hollinghurst|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1172099924s/139087.jpg|918312]. ( )
  potterhead9.75 | Jan 5, 2014 |
For the first 50 pages or so of this novel, I was wondering whether I'd accidentally purchased a bodice-ripping Harlequin novel for middle-aged ladies. Having finished the book in only two sittings (and enjoyed quite a lot of it), I now prefer to think of it as an "erotic picaresque novel" (a bodice-ripper by any other name... :-)
Smoothly written, with a keen eye for historical detail in its analysis of an upper-class family in 1907 Amsterdam, the story takes some odd twists and turns as the protagonist seeks to better himself in society. The main character, however, is also the main problem of this novel: a man of so many qualities as to be highly improbable. A good scholar, linguist (a cunning linguist, even), with a beautiful singing voice and an instinct for ingratiating oneself - quite possible. Extremely good-looking - fair enough. Rippling muscles that show through the fabric of his suit - a bit improbable, since no muscle-building physical activity is ever described. Highly intelligent, but without intellectual depth. Ruthlessly straight, but setting off the gaydar of every man around, married or not (the fact that the protagonist still has some unresolved mommy issues may have to do with that). The story becomes even more unhinged when the hero boards an ocean vessel that for all the longing male stares and swimming pool romps probably was the first gay cruise in history. My frustration was probably only caused because friends had spoken so highly that I was expecting an accomplished novel. As it stood, I did enjoy it - I only wish I could have read this erotic fantasy for ladies & gay men by the pool with a cocktail, where it belongs. ( )
  fist | Apr 7, 2013 |
This wasn't in my wheelhouse. It's well written erotica, with some interesting characters, but I expected more in terms of thematic depth. It was recommended as more of a literary novel than it turned out to be. I guess erotica can be literary, but this book didn't deliver what I was looking for.

The title character, Piet Barol, is engaged as a tutor to a prosperous Dutch family's OCD son, and proceeds to become embroiled in an affair with the lady of the house. He is also pursued, to varying degrees, by the two young daughters and a couple of male servants. I made it a third of the way through the book before realizing it wasn't for me. It seemed to follow a pattern of building up to one unsatisfying (for Piet) sexual encounter after another, which I suppose would eventually lead into some major fireworks. But what interested me the most were the psychological peculiarities of the boy, Egbert, and his father, Maarten. The book (to me at least) squandered too much time on the sexual frolics and didn't get back in time to what was, to me, the intellectual meat of the story.

I met Richard Mason at Booktopia in Vermont. A smart, charming, engaging man he is, and maybe he's got a book in him that would be more to my taste, but this wasn't the one.

I should say here that I'm not anti-erotica. But I don't seek the stuff out. One book along these lines I can recommend is Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's graphic novel, [bc:Lost Girls|58652|Lost Girls|Alan Moore|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1328049521s/58652.jpg|2783480]. That book, which, like this one, is set in Europe in the Gilded Age, has the additional draw of being itself not only erotica, but an argument in favor of erotica, of engaging the Eros urge instead of aggression. Moore and Gebbie (who are husband and wife) score some serious points in that regard, amid the titillation.

Edit:I went back and finished the book on May 11, 2012 I see no reason to change my review or rating. ( )
  EricKibler | Apr 6, 2013 |
Reading this book was a pleasant way to while away a few hours on a rainy day. For someone so ambitious, Piet isn’t unlikable at all. I cheered for him all throughout as he fooled and played mind games with those around him in small and big ways. There is nothing particularly deep here, but Richard Mason writes pretty well (the pacing was good, the characters were vivid, and the ambience of the period was on point), and that’s enough for me. Another book that will pick up where this one ends, following Piet’s adventures in South Africa, is on the offing, and I can’t wait to meet up with Piet again. ( )
  Samchan | Mar 31, 2013 |
Ambitious Piet Boral loves the finer things in life, so he secures a position as a tutor for the son of a wealthy Amsterdam businessman. Boral lacks any specific training for treating the boy's crippling agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but his good looks and smooth manner soon win the family to his side. He seduces the mother while the daughters flirt and the father proudly educates the young man about his collections of art. But Boral isn't truly a member of this gilded world, and if he doesn’t succeed in treating the son's problems, he'll be forced back into his old middle-class life. The tutor is determined to prevent this from happening.

The biggest problem that I had with this book was the main character and narrator, Piet Boral, never seems to fully engaged with the characters around him. He's always remote and detached, never emotionally invested. This infects the rest of the narrative; the sensuality of fine food and clandestine encounters with the mistress of the house are described, but they aren't lived. I never felt fully invited into the story; I only felt like I was just one more person that Boral was trying to manipulate with a carefully crafted tale.

One of the reasons that Piet Boral seems so distant and unreal is that he's just too much beloved. Every single character he meets, man or woman, seems to fall in love with him – or at the very least, they lust after his 'muscular and well fashioned' body. After a while, the encounters were no longer interesting because they were so very predictable.

The first half of the book, in which Boral lives as a tutor with an upper class family, has its problems but it is far superior to the second half. Boral, having come into some money, buys a ticket on a cruise ship to South Africa so that he can continue his highfalutin' lifestyle. It's a new setting, with new sexual partners, but the plot was dead in the water.

The characters and struggles that I was interested in got very little page time – for example, I would have loved to see more of Egbert, the child who suffered from OCD and couldn't leave the house. It would have been nice to learn more about him and how he had become so troubled, and what his daily life was like. Alternatively, the boy's father made a vow of celibacy after his son was born, and throughout the book suffers major financial blows that he attributes to an angry God. His inner life, though we saw it only in glimpses, was far more interesting that Boral's.

The story just seemed too shallow – not terrible, but not worth the time it took to finish the book. ( )
  makaiju | Feb 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
With its Perfume-like atmosphere and anti-hero, History of a Pleasure Seeker is a novel that, ultimately, promises more than it delivers.
 
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The adventures of adolescence had taught Piet Barol that he was extremely attractive to most women and to many men.
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This book is an opulent, romantic novel, written in the grand manner, set at the height of Europe's belle epoque, about a handsome young man in his mid-twenties, a golden boy who secures a position as a tutor in the household of one of the most prominent bourgeois families in Amsterdam and his entry into a world of moneyed glamour and dangerous temptations. Piet Barol, blue-eyed, dark-haired, seductive and seductively charged, enters this magnificent world, and inexorably learns the hidden truths of this vastly rich, secretive family and, through the course of the novel, is profoundly transformed as his charm and sexual pull transform each of their lives. In the heady exhilaration of this new world, amid delights and temptations that Piet has only dreamed of, he discovers that some of the intimacies he has cultivated are dangerous liaisons indeed.… (more)

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