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History of a Pleasure Seeker
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History of a Pleasure Seeker

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  2,049 ratings  ·  368 reviews
Piet Barol, the titular pleasure seeker, is a priapic, ambitious young man come to seek his fortune in belle époque Amsterdam. Unlike Frédéric Moreau in Flaubert's L'Éducation sentimentale (to which this book owes no meagre debt), Piet is magnificently gifted, not only "extremely attractive to most women and to many men," but also a fine pianist, draughtsman and lover. We...more
Paperback, 283 pages
Published 2011 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson
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Chris
A warning to readers: This book is hot, hot, HOT! Have a fan on the nightstand when you are reading this! Mason introduces us to Piet Barol, a man who attracts both women and men, and who is cunning enough to weave seamlessly through high society. In Part I, he is hired as a tutor for a young boy with OCD, and quickly becomes the one everyone in the house wants. Upon leaving the house, we enter Part II, where he aboard an oceanliner on its way to South Africa. I felt like something was missing i...more
Filip
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 pro...more
M
I can explain.

I'm in the library, and it's an urgent mission. There has been a dearth of good reads for far too long. My writing is suffering. I am suffering. I scan the scant 'new books' section and start yanking at anything that seems at all interesting. Obviously the title for this one had me raising an eyebrow, but a quick peek inside tells me institutions such as The New Yorker are behind this man, so, ok.
Literary, they called it. Smutty and pretentious, I call it. The fact that I needed a...more
Christie
I was very excited to start this book, because the reviews made it sound very interesting with the talk of turn of the century Amsterdam and Cape Town. However, the book was a major disappointment mainly because there were so many great passages and relationships within the book that the author could have explored but did not. Throughout reading the book, I found myself enjoying many passages between the main character Piet Barol and a secondary character in the book only to be confronted with y...more
Elise
Forget "50 Shades of Grey," and pick up this beautifully written erotic novel. "History of a Pleasure Seeker" is lush, atmospheric and a delicious escape into belle epoque Amsterdam--such a treat! Readers will fall in love with Piet Barol, the novel's seductive twenty-four year old protagonist who embarks on sensual adventures in the upper class world (a world alien to him as the novel begins). Even though he at first appears to move through the novel like a destructive whirlwind of desire--libe...more
Noce
E per fortuna che stiamo al 28 di Dicembre

Perché a me di finire l’anno con un libro così così, non mi va proprio.

Cioè: già quest’anno non è stato brillante, già il mio Capodanno si prospetta piatto come il Natale, forse di più; e per quanto io abbia una certa attitudine al masochismo, non vedo perché debba infierire a oltranza anche sul mio curriculum di brava e onesta lettrice.

Questa volta Mason mi ha fregato.

E so anche perché. Probabilmente ha letto il mio diario segreto in cui dico le peggior...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Twenty-three-year-old Piet Barol is a hedonist with a purpose. He's turned pleasure into an art, and made an art of pleasure. In 1907, he leaves behind his austere beginnings in South Holland for the splendor of the rich and modern, via employment in a powerful family in Amsterdam. Although raised in lower-middle-class surroundings, his Parisienne mother imparted gentility and musical refinement to Piet before her premature death. His sensuous lips, striking physique, keen blue eyes and cultivat...more
Meg
Richard Mason's HISTORY OF A PLEASURE SEEKER is a lush, sensuous and finely-wrought story of how, through charisma and seduction, one man is able to change an entire family and free them from their stuffy, well-made cages. In return, Piet is able to leave behind his poverty-stricken youth and seek all the pleasures to which he feels entitled as a self-made man.

I was initially attracted to this book because of a line drawn between it and F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY, one of my favorite...more
Eric Kibler
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 de...more
Roberta
Piet Barol è solo il figlio di un impiegatuccio universitario, ma la madre, un'insegnante di canto morta prematuramente, gli ha insegnato ad apprezzare i piaceri più esclusivi della vita. All'età di ventiquattro anni Piet abbandona la casa paterna e il lavoro a fianco del padre per diventare il tutore del piccolo Egbert. I Vermeulen-Sickerts sono una famiglia molto ricca e molto in vista nel bel mondo della Amsterdam di inizio Novecento, e Piet spera che siano anche il suo trampolino di lancio v...more
Librarymouse
This book had a lot of potential, but I think it only partially lived up to it.

I liked the first half of the book, where Piet is in Amsterdam and working as the tutor to a wealthy family, the best. In this portion of the book the author took care to develop Piet's relationships with the other characters, and since this is a novel that's primarily about character relationships (as opposed to some action-packed, twists-and-turns plot) it worked well. Of course, there are plot developments as well...more
Jennifer


History of a Pleasure Seeker is a fun, frothy, sex romp. It's a book about class but there is nothing new to be learned here about "the haves" and "the have nots". Mason creates an appealing setting - a 1907 upper class household in Amsterdam where Piet Barol comes to tutor the young, agoraphobic son Egbert and ingratiates himself into the family along the way. It's fun to read about the flirting, the messages conveyed through the cut of a dress, the looks given across the grand piano as Piet pl
...more
Stewart Hennessey
Mar 31, 2012 Stewart Hennessey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Flashman
This is a very amusing, wilfully preposterous, insightful and atmospheric novel. Every creature who meets the hero seems to want to bed him, which is bare-faced fantasy and all the more fun for it. The serious and likeably literary aspects are the telling details of history and picaresque set-pieces, but this novel scores in another, more individual way; a literary effort that's not half bad at sex scenes. Somehow it tends to be trashy writers who, paradoxically, pull off sex scenes the best, bu...more
Mairita
Nav 5 zvaigznes tikai tāpēc, ka grāmatai vajadzēja būt vismaz divreiz biezākai. Tik daudz ko vēl varēja pastāstīt. Ne visiem patiks stāstījuma mierīgais plūdums. Mazliet Dikenss, mazliet Feibera "Ziedlapiņas tumši sārtās un baltās"
Pam
My first 5-star adult fiction of the year! This book is incredibly humbling, thoughtful and a masterpiece of manners. One reviewer summed it up perfectly: "Henry James on Viagra." Truly as good as James. I wish I had a bookclub to discuss the complexity of this novel.

Piet Barol in 1907 is a recent university grade from modest Dutch background ambitious and driven to leave behind a lower class existence for one with modern amenities and experience the life to which his Parisian mother gave him g...more
Charlie
3.5 Stars
Piet Barol is a classic, seductive, golden boy who comes from modest means, but rises with the help of good looks and some common-sense charm that carries him a long way. The book is divided into two parts, with Piet Barol the focal character that pulls it together. The first half is intriguing and builds as the imperfections, phobias, morals and obstacles of the characters are revealed. Based on this, I would have rated the book higher, but then disappointment occurs when the period wi...more
Connie Mayo
I only wish that I had written the brief review blurb on the back cover: "Like Henry James on Viagra".

This is a well written period piece about an especially good looking man in Amsterdam right after the turn of the century, and how he uses his charms and looks to rise out of an impoverished life. He is hired to tutor a boy who has OCD (undiagnosed of course in this time period) who is part of a very wealthy family. So that would have been memorable enough, but there is an unusual amount of grap...more
Rachel
This review may contain some minor spoilers.

I'm usually wary of books by young authors who typically do not have enough life experience to make for interesting writing. The gimmicky marketing of young writers doesn't help. But Richard Mason's success is well-deserved. His masterful historical novel of the Gilded Age is a compelling read. Mason has a rare gift for narration, easily switching point-of-view from one character to the next, without confusing the reader. His narrator is subtle and uno...more
Mike
My first five star book of the year. Not because it's particularly profound or enlightening. But it's so damn enjoyable. It reminded me of Patrick Susskind's PERFUME, which I loved, as well as Robert Goolrick's A RELIABLE WIFE (Algonquin, 2009) which I did not.

The opening was perfect for a fan of Downton Abbey, like me: upstairs/downstairs intrigue in a wealthy household; the year is 1909. To make it a little different, the house is in town, not in the country; and the town is Amsterdam, not Lon...more
Monica Emerich
The description of the book enchanted me! I put it on my queue at the library and couldn't wait to dive in...and then, I started reading. First chapter, okay, I thought, but not great. I remonstrated myself, thinking my lack of enthusiasm was due to the fact that I'd just finished a book I consider one of the best I've ever read--Out Stealing Horses. Give it a chance, I thought.

Honestly, the premise of the book is delicious, but it failed me on several counts.

1) I found it simply unbelievable th...more
A
An utterly charming, witty, and engrossing sex romp done up in the trappings of a Henry James or Edith Wharton novel. At times it seems nearly impossible that this book was written in this century: Mason nails James's and Wharton's exhilariting milieu of belle epoque glamour and Gilded Age intrigue, while keeping the tone light and leaving out the more depressing aspects of literature of that era, be it James's paralyzing emotional density or Wharton's undertow of stultifying classism and woe. T...more
Judith
The story is set in 1907 Amsterdam and begins when Piet Barol lands a job as a tutor for a very disturbed young boy in a very wealthy family. Piet is an heroically handsome and likable character and it is such fun to watch him work his charm on all the members of this family, as he attempts to better his position in life. The story has some of the elements of "Upstairs/Downstairs" and "Downton Abby", because it takes a bird's eye view of each member of the domestic staff as well as each member o...more
Susanne
What a treat: delicious melodrama after the fashion of 'Downton Abbey' with a continental twist. Young Piet Barol is handsome and charming and ambitious, but thoroughly likeable for all that. He enjoys himself in all manner of ways in Amsterdam shortly after the turn of the last century, insinuating himself into higher society and escaping any number of close calls. I confess that the novel's final line -- 'To be continued' -- was quite cheering. There is to be more in future! One particularly p...more
Anita
A very "light". Not sure why the back says "my favourite book of the year". Pretty much just a "bodice ripper" with a nice cover. Nice writing but nothing major ever happens.
Disappointing as I choose it for my book club and I'll have to own up that I didn't really enjoy it and it didn't stretch me to read it.
Heather
This novel was an absolute pleasure to read. Every sentence was exquisitely constructed to provide maximum enjoyment. The third-person narrator's tone was full of humour, sometimes arch, occasionally serious, and completely without judgement, which I found refreshing. Piet (the main character) is a charming rogue, but I sympathized with him nonetheless and enjoyed his adventures (especially, but not only, the erotic ones). The references to classical music and opera (with which I was familiar) a...more
Marcia
I tried to read this book for two weeks and I finally gave up without finishing. I don't normally read the blurbs on the back cover but as I was putting this into the bag to return to the library, one review caught my eye. "Like Henry James on Viagra." And I was all, "Oh." Because I don't like Henry James (with the possible exception of "Turn of the Screw", which I really enjoy only because it inspired the amazing classic film "The Innocents" starring Deborah Kerr). This book, like the works of...more
Sheri
This was an entertaining read. I did not find it either highly literary or highly erotic, but it was entertaining enough. I think my biggest problem with the book was that Mason attempted to write it as if it was 1907 (instead of being just about 1907), but his language was a bit too frank. It wasn't just a historical novel written in 2011; it read (to me) like Mason was emulating the style of early 1900s, but he oftentimes fell flat. Mason's descriptions (especially of the religious fervor) mig...more
Alla
“History of a pleasure seeker” by Richard Mason, follows Piet Barol, an attractive but intelligent playboy from the lower classes, who uses his charms and street-smarts to try to make something of himself, in early twentieth-century (1907) Amsterdam. The storyline reminded me of the French classic “Black and Red’ by Stendhal, which attracted me to this book.

Piet Barol earns himself a job in the house of Amsterdam’s most prosperous family, the Vermeulen-Sickerts, by charming Jacobina, the wife of...more
Dan
For all those who seek it, pleasure awaits
Piet Barol, our dashing rake – alluring in body and mind to both men and women – obtains a position as tutor to 10-year-old Egbert, the psychologically contorted child of Maarten and Jacobina Vermeulen-Sickerts, who with daughters Louisa and Constance make up one of Belle Époque Amsterdam’s wealthiest families.

This is a story of life unfolding amid staggering opulence along the grandest canal in Amsterdam, a Dutch variant of “Downton Abbey” or “Upstairs...more
Jacquelyn
I wish I could give this 3.5 stars as I did like it but I can't say I "really" liked it. Mostly, the story intrigued me & I really enjoyed Mason's prose. Was it perfect? No. Some scenes were repetative & a little clunky. Overall, this was a quick read & a fun glimpse into the world of upper class Dutch society in the 1900s. I admire that Mason didn't leave out the sexual side of this world, as I'm sure people & events depicted did occur. I didn't think the sex was all that pervas...more
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Goodreads Feedback: Incorrect author profile 6 55 Aug 12, 2014 03:56AM  
The Smart Chicks ...: History of a Pleasure Seeker 12 28 Sep 25, 2012 08:25AM  
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“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.” 1 likes
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