History of a Pleasure Seeker

Written by Richard Mason
Review by Jeanne Greene

Amsterdam, 1907. The protagonist of Mason’s silky bildungsroman (after Natural Elements, 2010), is determined to rise in the world. Handsome young Piet Baron plans to save his guilders, go to New York, and get rich – all while living well. Although none of his many talents qualifies Piet to teach a ten-year-old, he charms the wife of Maarten Vermeulen-Seckert, a wealthy hotelier, into hiring him as live-in tutor for their disturbed son, Egbert.

Piet’s self-confidence is challenged, but he rises to each occasion. He converses in several languages, uses a fish knife correctly, and has exquisite taste. He also plays piano, sings (bass and falsetto), and draws beautifully. He even cures Egbert’s anxiety disorders. It’s great fun to see this deserving young man pull a rabbit out of a hat when he needs one.

Piet also understands (as well as any man in his twenties) the commodity value of sex. His experiences while in the Vermeulen-Seckert household, described in loving detail, are useful, if unwise. Whether engaged in sex for pleasure or gain, however, Piet neither misleads nor disappoints. To love him is to love him.

Piet’s amazed that cleaning a dinner suit costs more than he can get by selling it; so you know he still has lots to learn. Money comes easily but does not last. He takes too many risks and, inevitably, Maarten finds him out. It’s unfortunate that Piet can’t stay to see his positive impact on the family. (He’s not a scoundrel yet.)

Last seen on an ocean liner headed south, young Baron has a new name and a new plan. He’ll be back. This is a good time to become acquainted. Highly recommended.