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.