Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pleasures of Men” as Want to Read:
The Pleasures of Men
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pleasures of Men

2.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,372 Ratings  ·  288 Reviews
Kate Williams' first novel, The Pleasures of Men, is a gothic thriller with a splash of brutal murder.

Spitalfields, 1840.

A murderer nicknamed The Man of Crows.
A heroine with a mysterious past and a vivid imagination.

Catherine Sorgeiul lives with her Uncle in a rambling house in London's East End. When a murderer strikes, ripping open the chests of young girls and stuffing
Paperback, 391 pages
Published January 19th 2012 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published January 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pleasures of Men, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
samantha  (books-are-my-life20)
I love historical fiction and this was a fantastic read. A nail biter the who done it that kept me guessing until the end.
Lou Robinson
Feb 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Absolutely dreadful, I gave up after 50 pages. I did actually read the historical notes at the back, and strangely (or maybe not), they made for much better reading. Unfortunately, I think this is a case of an author with a background in historical research and factual writing, who is obviously passionate about Victoriana, turning her hand to novel writing, and overcooking it. Sorry Kate, didn't do it for me.
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 t ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
I'm actually a bit mad at myself for sticking with this book which turned out to be a huge let down and a waste of my time. I kept thinking it would get better or the storyline would make sense but it never happened. Word of advice to those thinking about reading this: if you get about 50 pages in and you don't like it - don't keep reading. It doesn't get better.
Sarah Mac
Original review:

Better review tomorrow -- too brain-dead tonight -- but overall this was very good. (Bonus: I see from the Reading Group thingee that the author is currently working on a second Victorian novel about a governess & the mysterious family she works for. SQUEE.)


Days after finishing this, I'm still somewhat stumped in the review department. The advance praise page has a blurb comparing this to Sarah Waters & Michael Faber, which isn't a bad analogy; certainly the sexua
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it

This is wonderful, and not at all what I was expecting from a historian turned novelist.

This is deliciously dark Victoriana.

I was pulled straight away into 1840, into the dark, crowded, dirty streets of East London.

The Man of Crows, a serial killer who has done terrible, terrible things to earn that soubriquet walks the streets and the city lives in fear.

Catherine Sougeil lives with her uncle in Spitalfields and she is troubled. She remembers a happier time when she lived with her paren
Roger Kean
Jan 02, 2012 rated it 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 so
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This book was not a popular book over-all on GR, but I really enjoyed it. This book has a dark gothic flare to it. It is an interesting combo of literary and non-literary. Also I have weakness for books with queer characters. :D
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime, mystery, queer
I don't know what to think of this book. It has a certain allure, something that kept me reading, but at the end I put it down and had difficulty pinning down anything I liked about it. There's an intense sexuality about it, and an interesting portrayal of a mentally fragile young girl and how people play upon her mind and manipulate her, and enjoy observing her. The atmosphere of the story is excellent, and the historical setting seems well researched and quite vivid, but... I didn't feel much ...more
The Pleasures of Men read like a badly televised version of Henry James The Turn of the Screw with a dash of Sarah Waters and Michael Cox added in.
There isn't any new ground covered in this novel. I didn't learn anything about the human condition of why people are attracted to serial killers. Blaming yourself for a dead relative might make a good case for a ghost story but this girl was just a drama queen.
I wasn't satisfied by any of the relationships established here.

The story of a prickly girl
Perhaps part of my confusion with the plot of The pleasure of men is due to the fact that I read it during finals week....but I don't think so. Based on the general consensus of other reviewers on Goodreads, I think Kate Williams intended to write a gothic Victorian mystery, but instead wrote a convoluted, overwrought tale which tried to do too much and succeeded at very little.

Meet Catherine, a young woman with a tragic past (which slowly gets revealed during the first 1/2 of the book). She
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams is, contrary to the title, a mystery set in 1840s England. Catherine Sorgeiul, an orphan, lives with her eccentric uncle on Princes Street, and is on the verge of being a spinster. Forced by her uncle to try to find a suitable match, yet limited to her dismal and eerie home in a lower-class part of London, she yearns to escape from the drudgery. When the Man of Crows begins to wage war on poor girls throughout the city, and leaves them dead in the position o ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Someone is murdering women. The murderer however does take the time to nicely arrange the women by braiding their hair and stuffing the end of the braid in their mouth.

Catherine Sorgeiul lives with her Uncle. She is supposed to be a proper lady and that means she does not have much of a life. With lots of time on her hands, Catherine soon finds herself drawn to the murders. Catherine starting writing about the murders. However, Catherine’s writing brings her into the killer’s sight.

This book s
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catherine Clarke
Oct 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
About five stories in one - the author clearly could not decide which one to tell and so told all of them. The thriller I was expecting failed to materialise and the ending was predictable and dull.
Linda Hill
One thing I can say for this book is it kept me reading to the end. Was it a bit confusing? Yes. Did it mean to be confusing? Yes.
Though it's not a horror, it draws the reader in like one, in that it puts the reader right in the setting with Catherine, the main character. The thing is, Catherine's not quite all there, which leaves the reader at a bit of a loss.
I'd absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to go on a journey to historical London. But be aware that you're in for a cockey
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea. Everytime I thought something interesting was going to happen, I was let down. Overall, one of the weirdest books I've read.
Sep 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Word soup. If anyone knows what this is all about, let me know. Actually, on second thoughts, don't bother.
Dessi Walsh
Apr 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: less-than-zero
A waste of time this.
Trite, superficial, pointless.
Went nowhere, gave nought.
Alex Black
Usually when I give a book one star, there's a certain amount of hate involved. But this book didn't even inspire hate. 350 pages and the only time I came even remotely close to caring about a character is for about twelve pages when Constantine was speaking the most obvious truths and pointing out several flaws in the book. This happened around page 100 and I was shocked that there was almost something resembling a personality. But that quickly passed.

This was just a convoluted mess that fell l
This book started off mysterious and dark! Just to know ther is a serial killer during the Victorian era!
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Catherine Surgeiul non è la tipica eroina vittoriana: impacciata e distratta, spesso si perde nei meandri della propria immaginazione. E' poco curata nell'aspetto e, in compagnia di altre persone, si sente costantemente a disagio.
Catherine ha un segreto che verrà svelato poco a poco: la ragione per cui ha visto la propria famiglia e la propria vita dissolversi per far posto ad un grandissimo ed opprimente senso di colpa. Per anni le è stato ripetuto che è stata lei la causa del male che ha dist
Aug 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Huge disappointment and I must say this book has sworn me off any future offerings by author Williams as I found the entire book utterly atrocious. Takes place in Victorian England and the central character is Catherine, an orphan who is now in her early twenties and lives under the good graces of her uncle in London. There are hints of some sort of sordid past, coupled with mental health issues, which have forced Catherine into the living arrangement she now finds herself. Her uncle is some sor ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Catherine Sorgeiul lives in Spitalfields with her uncle. Previously, she had lived in Richmond with her parents and brother, but there are hints of some tragedy which means Catherine has lost her family. The full story only becomes clear as the book unfolds, but it is obvious that Catherine is a very tragic and unhappy young girl. The house she lives in with her uncle is a "cabinet of curiosities", set in a poor area where few respectable people visit. Those that do, Catherine is wary of. Her un ...more
Sue Smith
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I've got mixed feelings on this one, I won't deny that. On one hand it was a story with a lot of potential - serial killer in Dicken's London, preying on women and disposing them in a most gruesome manner, all murders seemingly coming closer and closer to one particular, by all accounts, troubled young woman. It had all the hallmarks of a darn good read. And what a cover!! Sucked me right into the vortex ... had me with the bloody knife being gently held by a fragile ivory hand.


Sadly, it
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
This should have been a winner with me, a pre-Peeler Victorian murder mystery with an undercurrent of mental illness, this one was largely a miss for me. There were moments that worked, but overall it just wasn't me.

Catherine Sorgeiul lives in Spitalfields with her Uncle. She is getting older and there is a possiblilty that she won't find a husband. Her uncle is eccentric and she herself is prone to what were referred to as fits of imagining. She has spent some time in institutions after her mot
I could not get into this. It was disjointed, skipping around between POVs (I think? No, I'm pretty sure. Unless those other POVs were dreams...)

So, yeah. Confusing. The villain(s) were telegraphed (badly) from the beginning, but some others (Mr. Janisser the younger) didn't act appropriately (ETA: by which I mean that his character wasn't consistent - his behaviour jumped around a lot), and there were no reasons given.

I don't know - I couldn't get into it - the main character (Catherine?) did
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
A cleverly crafted, darkly twisted novel that examines the psyche of Catherine, our troubled, unstable narrator. The story follows Catherine's increasing obsession with a string of brutal murders committed by the nicknamed "The Man of Crows". Throughout, she creates stories in order to better understand The Man of Crows and to unravel the mystery as to why the murders are occurring.

But, Catherine is, of course, an unreliable narrator ...
Feb 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
not worth my time reviewing.

could have been a good plot but was poorly executed.
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Set in 1840’s London, ‘The Pleasures of Men’ tells the tale of orphaned nineteen year old Catherine Sorgeiul after she is taken in by her uncle. Uncle lives in genteel poverty amidst books and anthropological artifacts. Encouraged to not think about the tragedies of her past that led her to be institutionalized for a time, but given nothing to do that interests her, she becomes obsessed with the Man of Crows, a serial killer who is targeting young women. To try and get a handle on how he thinks, ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Kept
  • The Whores' Asylum
  • The Ripper's Wife
  • The Transformation
  • A Factory of Cunning
  • The Wild Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria's Defiant Daughter
  • The Dark Lantern
  • Poet's Cottage
  • Emma Brown
  • Little Bones
  • Grace Hammer : a Novel of the Victorian Underworld
  • The Solitary House (Charles Maddox #2)
  • The Somnambulist
  • Mistress of Mourning
  • A Bloodsmoor Romance
  • Accidents of Providence
  • The Observations
  • The Flower Reader
Hello! Thank you for visiting my page. It's a great privilege to be on here - and to say hi to readers. Thank you very much for all your support and interest in my books! My twitter account is @katewilliamsme and I have a facebook page for Kate Williams author, come and say hello! I'm always thrilled to hear from you and your thoughts about my work.

I grew up in a very modern house in a dormitory