The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams

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The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: One woman's fascination with a series of murders leads her to a new chapter in her life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Michael Joseph
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0241951392

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Catherine Sorgeiul is a woman with burdens. Living with her uncle in London’s East End during the reign of Queen Victoria, hers is a life that seems empty – yet in fact is full of things she is trying to push away.

Filling her days has become a problem, so when a series of grisly murders begins, Catherine is drawn to the mystery of the Man of Crows in a way that seems bound to change her life.

The claustrophobia of Catherine’s daily life is cleverly shown by the writing style; as a reader, we are constantly bumping into terror and then being shown a door where we can run free. But that door inevitably leads to another dark alley either in the streets or in the mind of the protagonist, and like Catherine, we become aware that there is something else, something worse perhaps than the Man of Crows, which is inescapable.

The characters are put together in such a way that they could almost share qualities with the Man of Crows; in many cases we see only the odd detail and are left to put together the other details from sinister occurrences, such as the taunting of a maid, the unnatural interest in a specific person or a dark art.

While Williams’ style is largely fitting for the novel, it is confusing in parts, as streams of consciousness lead us far from one incident to the recollection of another, perhaps too far sometimes, as being recalled to the main scene is sometimes too big a stretch and impedes the natural progression of scenes that I for one, was anxious to see to their ending. However, this is a minor issue and it may be that the style otherwise is so strong, the one part that didn’t suit me seems to stick out more than it might have done otherwise.

The portrayal of London’s East End, the growing hysteria that inevitably surrounds the progress of a serial killer and the stifling overprotectiveness that women suffered are beautifully illustrated throughout. It’s easy to be sympathetic and fearful for Catherine, and hopeful that her growing courage, which we see her develop in a determined fashion, will ultimately reward her with much needed freedom.

Overall, this is a well styled novel with satisfying characters beautifully set within their historical background. I look forward to reading more of Kate Williams’ work. We also have a review of The Storms of War by Kate Williams.

If this book appeals then you might like to try A Case of Witchcraft by Joe Revill

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