Waterstones gave me an advance copy of History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason to review. But a combination of my being busy and blogger being down means this review is a few days later than planned (I finished it Sunday) and actually the book is now out, having been released on 12th May.
Here's the text from the back of the book, helpfully taken from the Waterstones website:
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...' It is 1907. The belle epoque is in full swing. Piet Barol has escaped the drabness of the provinces for the grandest mansion in Amsterdam. As tutor to the son of Europe's wealthiest hotelier, he learns the intimate secrets of this glittering family - and changes it forever. With nothing but his exquisite looks and wit to rely on, he is determined to make a fortune of his own. But in the heady exhilaration of this new world, amid delights and temptations he has only dreamed of, Piet discovers that some of the liaisons he has cultivated are dangerous indeed.
The first thing I have to say is how much I love the cover of this book! Very stylish, it gives little away of the plot but has a decadent feel to it very appropriate to the plot. I've no idea how they made books back in 1907 when this was set or wether they would have looked like this does (as though it has a ribbon over the back spine holding the book together) but it feels to me like a book from that period. Love it. Obviously an actual book with the same cover with an actual ribbon over the back would be much cooler. but, also priced out of my budget so I'm glad this one was faked!
I really enjoyed this book and at times found it hard to put down. Some disability issues (relating to mental health conditions) are addressed as a sub plot and are for the most part well handled. The one time they are badly handled it's brief everyone is shocked and disapproving about that and it's necessary to the plot. As a disabled person I would prefer such issues were always well handled but that would be very unrealistic and in this particular case I'm not sure what else could have advanced the plot in such a way. I was unsure if the interaction between Piet and the hotelier who employs him was realistic for a tutor and his employer or if he should have been treated more as a servant BUT it works and is well written making it believable. That's the more important thing in a book, in my opinion.
The book is about Piet's search for pleasure in all forms - good clothes, good food, fine drinks, a better life. And there are sex scenes which whilst not overly graphic could make some people uncomfortable with the level of description and language used - these were not gratuitious but neither were they "and then they went to bed..." with the rest left to your imagination.
The book ends with the words "to be continued..." so there must be another book planned. The ending itself seems a bit of a con, as though it just trailed off. I personally felt it should have ended a page or two sooner as this would have been much stronger.
Overall this isn't the best book I've ever read or even reviewed but I did like it and there were definite "keepy you reading" moments. I would have reservations over who I recommended or lent it to however.