Roger Kean's Reviews > The Pleasures of Men

The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams
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Jan 02, 2012

it was ok

The review blurb says Kate Williams is "hugely promotable,' and "has a fantastic media profile," all of which is undoubtedly true. BBC TV presenter, author, and reviewer, she's described as "a stunning new voice in historical fiction." The blurb also tells us that Williams took an MA in Creative Writing, and this shows its hand on almost every page of this novel; so over-written it's overwrought.

The Pleasures of Men follows the overheated imagination of a frustrated Victorian girl, damaged in some way as a child, as she attempts to understand the heart of what today we would call a serial murderer, only to discover that his crimes have a basis much closer to home than she thinks. The first-person narrative has all the advantages of clever misdirection, but at the expense of clarity to the point of irritation. My second star is given for the poetic density of the prose, and no doubt the repressed sexual undertones may keep many readers turning the pages, but I found this book intractable and the denouement insufficient for the time it took to wade through it. I'm sure Kate Williams is capable of a story more accessible and thrilling than this historical tract.
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