History of a Pleasure Seeker

History of a Pleasure Seeker

Richard Mason

‘Mason turns a gleeful eye on the period and its luxurious trappings…’ (New Yorker) as Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens reads Mason’s ‘glittering confection’ (New York Times) about God, sex and overcoming fear in the Gilded Age.

The story comes to life with photos of old Amsterdam, ask-the-author videos, historical notes, and performances of Chopin, Bizet and Mozart recorded specifically for the Orson.

Piet Barol is ‘a pure pulse of young manhood; not an everyman, but perhaps the fantasy everyman that every man would like to be’ (Times Literary Supplement). When this dashing young adventurer escapes the drabness of the provinces to enter the employ of the wealthiest family in Amsterdam, he changes their lives forever.

Piet is hired by Europe’s richest hotelier, a self-made Calvinist who has rolled the dice on the biggest gamble of his career – the building of New York’s Plaza Hotel. Maarten’s wife Jacobina loves him deeply and tries not to mind that they never have sex. His daughters, Constance and Louisa, reign as queens over their social set.

From the outside, all is enviable. But the wheels are coming off Maarten’s business empire, and his 10-year-old son Egbert refuses to leave the house. The dysfunctions of the glittering family are more alluring than Piet bargained for. In this ‘enthralling and perfectly paced novel’ (Observer) he walks a tightrope between delight and danger.

richard mason

Richard Mason

Richard’s four previous novels have been published in over 20 languages. He co-founded Orson with the dream of bringing the music and images in History of a Pleasure Seeker to life for digital readers. The sequel Who Killed Piet Barol? is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in the UK and Knopf in the US (January 2017).
dan stevens

Dan Stevens

Dan’s star quality in Downton Abbey won him roles on Broadway (The Heiress, opposite Jessica Chastain) and on the silver screen as David in The Guest. Feature films The TicketOppenheimer Strategies, and Beauty and the Beast are all awaiting release in 2016 and 2017. He is due to start filming TV series Legion soon.

Key features

  • Hand drawn illustrations from Raguenet’s Materiaux et Documents d’Architecture paired with 44 colour and archival images
  • Historical essays about the Belle Époque, luxury liners, and the banking panic of 1907.
  • 6 author videos


  • Orson publication date: 2016
  • Original edition publication date: February 2011 (UK)
  • Original edition publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK); Knopf (US)
  • Narrator: Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey)
  • Editor: Benjamin Morse

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