x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

History of a Pleasure Seeker: A tale of liberation

Richard Mason's handsome young rogue's life takes a turn for the hedonistic when he takes on a job as a tutor in Amsterdam during the Belle Epoque.

History of a Pleasure Seeker
Richard Mason
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Dh72
History of a Pleasure Seeker Richard Mason Weidenfeld & Nicolson Dh72

In 1907, Piet Barol is a handsome rascal in his early 20s. His mother raised him to have caviar tastes but some years after her passing he's still living on a slim budget, a point he intends to remedy.

With the knowledge that he's "extremely attractive to most women and to many men", Piet is willing to be pragmatic about this quality. To this end, his intentions are not entirely honourable when he applies for a job with a wealthy hotelier family, the Vermeulen-Sickerts, who live on the Gilded Curve, the grandest stretch of the grandest canal in Amsterdam.

His new position is to tutor the Vermeulen-Sickerts' young son, Egbert, who has a crippling fear of the outdoors. The real task is, of course, curing Egbert of his agoraphobia. But as suspected, there are others in the household also in need of liberation, and a precariousness creeps over Piet's tenure as he indulges in a string of dangerous liaisons.

The author's use of extravagant prose befits the conspicuous consumption of the Belle Époque, and the wild eccentricities of Piet's employers. History of a Pleasure-Seeker is saucy, funny and very difficult to put down.