The Pleasures of Menby Kate Williams
July 1840: The young Queen Victoria has just entered her third year on the throne when a major recession brings London's desperate and destitute into its sweltering streets. While the city crackles with tension, orphaned Catherine Sorgeiul stays locked away in her uncle's home, a peculiar place where death masks adorn the walls and certain rooms are strictly forbidden. Nineteen years old and haunted by a dark past, Catherine becomes obsessed with a series of terrible murders of young girls sweeping the city. Details of the crimes are especially gruesome--the victims' hair has been newly plaited and thrust into their mouths, and their limbs are grotesquely folded behind them, like wounded birds--and the serial killer is soon nicknamed the Man of Crows.
Catherine begins writing stories about the victims--women on their own and vulnerable in the big city--and gradually the story of the murderer as well. But she soon realizes that she has involved herself in a web of betrayal, deceit, and terror that threatens her and all those around her. A remarkable fiction debut, The Pleasures of Men is a gripping and spine-tingling thriller.
A charged, fast-paced ride through the dark underbelly of Victorian London in the footsteps of a serial killer. Fans of Sarah Waters will love it."Good Housekeeping (UK)"
This is a wonderfully ripe, imaginative and gripping piece of Victorian pastiche, with a spider's web of a plot and a spine-tingling atmosphere of menace and suspense."The London Times"
The Pleasures of Men is an intense, intelligent and hugely entertaining read."The Guardian"
The Pleasures of Men shares with Wolf Hall an ambitious, challenging concern with form combined with a pitch-perfect historical ear. . . . This intoxicating and disturbing novel is properly thrilling and extraordinarily well-written. Kate Williams is already an accomplished biographer; The Pleasures of Men shows a soaring talent let loose."The Independent on Sunday"
Part bodice-ripper, part-slasher, the book's elaborate plot moves along at a brisk clip with a nod to the likes of Sarah Waters and Peter Ackroyd."The Daily Mail"
[A] promising first novel . . . Readers looking for more psychological sophistication than is usual in such historicals will be pleased."Publishers Weekly
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Meet the Author
Kate Williams earned her BA at Somerville College, Oxford, where she was a College Scholar; she received her MA from Queen Mary, University of London, and her DPhil at Oxford. Her debut book, England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton (Ballantine, 2006), was shortlisted for the Marsh Prize for Biography and her second book, Becoming Queen (Ballantine, 2010), about the passionate youth of Queen Victoria and Princess Charlotte was a Book of the Year in the Tatler and Spectator. She is currently writing a biography of Josephine Bonaparte, Mistress of Empires, for publication in Spring 2012 by Ballantine. She teaches creative writing at London University. The Pleasures of Men is her first novel. She lives in London, England.
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London 1840. A madman is murdering young women, cutting them open and stuffing hair into their mouths to resemble a beak, prompting him to be known as The Man of Crows. This is before the Ripper murders rocked Whitechapel. This is before Sir Robert Peel's police force (or "bobbies") have started patrolling the streets. London's East End is running scared and anyone could be the next victim. Women are told to stay off the streets and not to go anywhere at night, especially not alone. But nineteen-year-old Catherine Sorgeiul cannot abide that advice. She wanders the streets surrounding her uncle's house in Spitalfields where she lives, hoping to find some clue as to the identity of the murderer. Orphaned and sent to live with various relatives, Catherine is a disturbed young woman who has spent time in an asylum and isn't sure she can trust her own thoughts. She IS sure, for reasons she cannot explain, that she understands the Man of Crows, that she will be able to channel him and discover why he has been killing so many women around her. But what is it that Catherine really knows? Kate Williams' fictional tale of a serial killer in London at the start of Queen Victoria's reign is a captivating one. She has previously written historical non-fiction about the same time period, so I knew before I read this book that her research on the setting would be solid (even as she wove a story about an imaginary serial killer decades before Jack the Ripper). But unlike other historical crime stories set in Victorian England, the setting was important but not crucial. In some books with a similar theme--and there are a lot of them--the setting of 19th-century London is almost like another character in the novel, with the sights, sounds and culture of the day factoring so heavily into the plot that one could not imagine the story being told in any other context. Alex Grecian's The Yard, for example, is more about the time and place than it is about the actual crimes. It could not have taken place in any other setting. The Pleasures of Men is not just about Victorian London. It's about the psychology of Catherine Sorgeiul, a young woman so convinced of her own wickedess that neither she nor the reader is ever sure if she is simply imagining things or if she is really sinister. The story weaves in and out between Catherine's point of view and that of other characters--mostly victims of the Man of Crows--and sometimes is written as Catherine's imagining of other characters' perspectives. It's a tricky read in places because it's hard to tell what's real and what's not, but that's sort of the point. Is Catherine sane? Is she dangerous? Is any of it real? Kate Williams' novel is really about that slipperiest of characters: the unreliable narrator. I've learned not to read other reviews of a book until I've written my own, and definitely not before I've read the book. I'm glad I followed that rule in this case, although I did find myself glancing at some of the reviews on Goodreads as I was writing this. People have some vastly different opinions of this book. There were those, like me, who loved it and gave it 4 or 5 stars. Then there were those who absolutely hated it and gave it 1 star. I was so surprised! Among the reviewers who hated the book there seemed to be a lot who gave up after 50 or 100 pages and didn't finish the book. Again, I was surprised. I couldn't even think of not finishing this book! Not only was I dying to fi
Author: Kate Williams Published by: Penguin Books Ltd Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Book Blog For: GMTA Rating: 4 Review: "The Pleasures of Men" by Kate Williams was a novel of thriller, mystery, romance, suspense, murder and even some 'Victorian' historical fiction all rolled up into one. To say that this novel was interesting...I would say, yes but a also strange and dark read. Why was this? We find that at this time in London a madman was murdering young women and stuffing their hair into their mouths...known as 'The man of Crows.' We find that Catherine Sorgeiul who was now nineteen, had been a orphan, has now been taken up by her uncle and she is becoming crazed about the 'Man of Crows' who was a serial killer who had been targeting young women. "London's East End is running scared and anyone could be the next victim. Women are told to stay off the streets and not to go anywhere at night, especially not alone" however, we see that Catherine does not abide by this advice. We find that she wonders the streets trying to find a clue to these identity of the murderer. Catherine felt that from her pass...a disturbed person that had lived as a orphaned and even spent time in an asylum thought she understood the "Man of Crows." Why was this and what does she feel she knows? This will be a captivating read in that you will find this story weaves in and out between Catherines' point of view and with other characters...presenting a tricky read in knowing just what is real and what is not. This presents the point to whether Catherine is sane, dangerous or even real. From Catherine's writings, odd things start to happen where she finds that trust doesn't come easy for her. Now, this is where I say to really get all the what, how, where and who of it all you must pick up "The Pleasures of Men" to find out what this author has instore for the reader as we actually find out what had happened to Catherine and her family plus so much more. What did I think of this read..."The Pleasures of Men" a bit strange read but still enough to hold your interest and attention especially if you are in for a good suspenseful murder mystery... Would I recommend? YES.
July 1840 and London is in recession, the people are scared hungry & desperate. Into this mix is a serial killer who mutilates young women capturing the imagination of 19 year old Catherine Sorgeiul who lives mysteriously locked away in her uncles house. Afraid of life & never really fitting into society Catherine's past is haunted and as the story goes on we eventually figure out why. Catherine becomes fixated on the gruesome murders occurring quite close to the part of town she lives in and with the serial killer who soon becomes known as the "Man of Crows" for the disturbing way in which he arranges his victims. Living mostly in her head she starts to imagine and write down stories of the girls he murdered and conversations she will have with him, nightmares consume her and strange events happen all around her...evil lurks nearby I love historical fiction and this was a fantastic read. A nail biting "who done it" that kept me guessing until the end.