Monday, February 6, 2012

History Of A Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

It is 1907, and Piet Barot has come to Amsterdam to make his fortune.  He has applied to be the tutor to the ten year old son of the fabulously wealthy Vermeulen-Sickerts family.  Piet is moderately well-educated, can play the piano adequately and can sing.  But his real assets are his looks and his ability to charm.  His mother was a singer before marrying his father, and raised him to have the manners and knowledge that a wealthy young man would have. 

Piet is successful in getting the job, and uses it as a station to improve his lot.  He charms each member of the family.  Maarten is a successful businessman, but one who also made his way to the top and he sees himself in Piet.  The two daughters of the family try to play with Piet as they do their suitors but he is able to avoid that trap and instead become their friend.  The mother, Jacobina, is attracted to Piet, and he plays on that attraction to solidify his position.  Piet is also, after many months, able to free the son from the phobias that have restricted his life.

Mason has created a character that will long remain in the reader's mind, as they try to determine if he is an admirable figure or a scoundrel.  Piet shows flashes of both, along with a steely determination to live life on his own terms and use all his strengths to make his way in the world.  This book is recommended for readers interested in the golden age of Europe and the way the upper class lived.

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