The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams

Just finished reading The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams which brings to us Catherine, an orphan living in her uncle’s house in Spitalfields in the East End of London.    To quote Amazon

The Pleasures of Men, is a gothic thriller with a splash of brutal murder.

A murderer nicknamed The Man of Crows.

A heroine with a mysterious past and a vivid imagination.

…..When a murderer strikes, ripping open the chests of young girls and stuffing hair into their mouths to resemble a crow’s beak, Catherine is fascinated, and devours news of his exploits.”

To be honest I was totally gripped with this as soon as I saw it, the cover was enough to catch my attention straight away and the description on the jacket sealed the deal.  Gothic horror!!  I understand that Kate Williams is a historian and it shows in her writing.  I think she manages to evoke a wonderfully sinister, dark, foggy and corrupt side of London that portrays the vast differences during that period between the wealthy and the poor and also gives a view of women’s place within that society.  It certainly didn’t seem to be a particularly happy place to be for women of the era – no matter what your social status.

All that being said, and in spite of the fact that I wanted to love this book, I just didn’t.  There are certainly a lot of plus points.  I think KW knows her facts, she’s come up with a really intriguing story revolving around a mysterious woman whose background is gradually revealed and a serial killer who seems to be picking women off the streets of London and causing terror and panic amongst its inhabitants.  I think my real problem lay in the fact that most of the characters are unlikable or unsympathetic, almost to the point where I suspected everyone at one point of being the murderer!  Everybody seems to be manipulative or scheming.  Added to that is the internal ramblings of Catherine.  Catherine has had a bit of a troubled life so far and has in fact spent some time in an institution, she basically thinks she is evil and thinks she attracts evil and with this in mind her internal thoughts can be a bit perplexing to say the least.  I would say that sometimes the story telling can be confusing and sometimes disjointed.  On top of that I think parts of this come across a bit disturbing – well, there’s a serial killer roaming the streets after all so I suppose that’s inevitable.

And yet, I did feel compelled to read on.  The start is fairly gripping and I think that’s because we’re given one of the victims stories – which does occur again in the novel.  And these little stories make for really fascinating reading which I think the novel could have greatly benefitted from having more of, little glimpses of the lives of different people.

On the whole, I wouldn’t say I disliked this and I certainly did feel like I needed to read to the end, but, I wouldn’t say I found it totally satisfying.  I thought there were too many strands trying to come together, it was a bit disjointed and the characters were just all too unappealling.  However, I would certainly keep my eye on KW because she clearly has a lot of talent.  This one just wasn’t for me and that’s perhaps because I was expecting a more old fashioned type of read and this felt like more of a modern take.

The Pleasures of Men

The Pleasures of Men

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10 Responses to “The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams”

  1. TBM

    I haven’t heard of this one but it sounds like it should be a good read. But now I’m not sure. Maybe if I stumble upon in it the library I’ll read a few pages to see if I could get into it. Halloween is coming up along with my craving for gothic novels.

    • lynnsbooks

      I definitely have mixed feelings about this one. I think some aspects are excellent but for me something was just holding it back. You could check it out of the library for Carl’s RIP?
      Lynn 😀
      P.S. – if you have a good creepy novel that you want to recommend then let me know 😀

  2. jessicabookworm

    I’m really inrigued by the concept of this book, but I’m definitely an emotional reader who does tend to want to like atleast one of the characters! So I’m left in two minds about this book.

    • lynnsbooks

      You could check it out the library. I definitely have mixed feelings. I really liked certain aspects in fact part of me is even thinking I should give it another go! I couldn’t help feeling like it was a tiny bit of a missed opportunity. I must say that I think this author could be one to look out for though.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Aunt Amelia

    OH WOW!!!!!! Gothic horror!!!! Oh wow!!!!!!! -gigggles- On my list of reads, this must go. Thank you!

    “Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare,
    And left the flushed print in a poppy there.”
    ~Francis Thompson

    • lynnsbooks

      Hi
      Well, it’s got a lot of things that appeal but I did have mixed feelings about it. I’d be interested to know what you think.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Aunt Amelia

    Me… Back again… Your comment in my blog, about your rain over there…… Reminded me that I had seen something, on the excessive rainfall in the UK.

    Didn’t some large newspaper do some sort of an Editorial, saying: “This must stop!” ? ,-))))

    “Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare,
    And left the flushed print in a poppy there.”
    ~Francis Thompson

    • lynnsbooks

      The rain has been absolutely awful in fact lots of parts of the UK have experienced flash floods – Devon, Yorkshire, Wales, Newcastle. Just really bad rainfall within such short spells. Like a monthful of rain in one day. It’s been a pretty abysmal summer to be honest so far. That’s why I was admiring your garden. I haven’t even done any baskets of flowers this year because they just get beaten down.
      Oh well. There’s still time I suppose.
      Lynn 😀

  5. jenclair

    Oh dear, I was all set to add this to my wish list, but now…maybe not.

    • lynnsbooks

      On the face of it I thought it was going to be my ideal book but it lost something along the way. It started off well but then the internal voice of the main protagonist just was a bit bleh. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if something had happened or whether it was her over imagination. There was just too much internal thinking and not enough story. I did think it was quite good and I must say that I’ll keep my eye on this author but on this occasion I think she lost an opportunity to tell a quite chilling and gothic story by trying to be ‘different’.
      Lynn 😀

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