History of a Pleasure Seeker

Richard Mason, Author
Richard Mason. Knopf, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-59947-6
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 02/07/2012
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-7538-2909-7
Open Ebook - 157 pages - 978-0-307-95752-8
Paperback - 283 pages - 978-0-297-86305-2
Paperback - 305 pages - 978-0-307-94928-8
Paperback - 283 pages - 978-0-7538-2842-7
Hardcover - 283 pages - 978-0-297-86105-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-08908-2
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The title of Mason’s latest misleads, not only because his story details an interlude in a young man’s life, not a history, but also because this man is less a seeker than a receiver. The operative word, however, is pleasure, which comes in abundance to both the reader and the seductively handsome Piet Barol. The story opens in Amsterdam, 1907, during the belle époque, which Mason evokes with delightful period detail. Piet, at 24, is hired as a tutor for the deeply troubled son of the wealthy Maarten Vermeulen-Sickerts, a devout Calvinist whose belief in predetermination guides him to a degree that he conceals even from his cherished wife, Jacobina. Their obsessive son, Egbert, is tormented by invisible demons; his suffering adds weight to a tale that is otherwise amusingly, at times stubbornly, lighthearted. No one, including Jacobina or Egbert’s two older sisters, fails to notice Piet’s allure. He is bright, talented, and ambitious, but he trusts those qualities less than he trusts his sexuality, which leads him to many enthusiastic encounters with women, including Jacobina, and men, and helps him slide haplessly into passivity. Mason (Natural Elements) writes with sensuality and humor, but the novel fails to deeply satisfy, especially at its forced and hollow end. Agent: Anderson Literary Management. (Feb.)
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