Blair's Reviews > The Pleasures of Men

The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams
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's review
Jul 09, 15

really liked it
bookshelves: historical, mystery-thriller-etc, read-abroad, 2012-release, first-novels
Read from April 05 to 06, 2012

In 19th-century London, Catherine Sorgeiul is living an isolated life in Spitalfields, where she is confined to her uncle's home. An insular and slightly disturbed young woman, she has a troubled history which always seems to be threatening to rise to the surface. When a serial killer, nicknamed 'the Man of Crows' by the press, starts to strike around Catherine's home, she becomes convinced she can get inside the heads of both murderer and victims, and that she is the only person who can solve the riddle of who the killer really is. The narrative progresses through Catherine's attempts to identify the Man of Crows, and as it does, the secrets of her own past are uncovered.

This book was an odd one. It's hugely derivative, for a start: it's been compared to Sarah Waters by a lot of reviewers and critics, but then how could it not be when it features: lots of dank, dreary settings in Victorian London; a young woman with a troubled past being confined to her home by a cold, sinister uncle; lesbian liaisons between mistresses and servants; potential implications of supernatural goings-on which may actually be in the protagonist's head; a disturbing murder mystery, etc etc. I was quite surprised by how blatantly the story seemed to be inviting comparisons to Waters' work, and when I began reading, I didn't think there could possibly be anything truly original about it. Indeed, I found the first few chapters somewhat dull. Then, slowly but surely, I found myself being reeled in. Although some elements (including the ending) were rather pedestrian, the book had some sort of mysterious allure which kept me hooked. The narrative voice is fragmented and sometimes disjointed but somehow it works, perhaps because it's so effective in communicating the disturbed state of mind experienced by Catherine. If you're willing to stick with it, this is a delightfully dark piece of historical fiction filled with complex characters and an unsettling, twisted plot which slowly reveals a number of dreadful secrets. Weird, but unexpectedly good.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Wendy Darling Thanks for this review, Blair--I wondered about the SW comparisons, too. I'm glad to know it's a worthwhile read!

Blair I don't think it will be to everyone's taste - a lot of the other reviews on Goodreads seem to suggest many readers found it dull or confusing. However, personally I would recommend it (though she isn't as good a writer as Waters). It probably helped that I read the whole thing in one sitting!

message 3: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer doesnt look promising from the reviews. I quite fancied this but TBh I find Waters very dull so the prognosis isnt cheery.

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