"A dark, fascinating exploration of man's nature." - The Lancet. A riveting thriller about greed, power, hormones, illicit sex, and women - and the monstrous megalomaniac who believes he can have it all. Vainglorious Mordechai de Paauw is ruthless: in the years before World War II, the Dutch pharmaceutical entrepreneur is on the cutting edge of science and determined to develop the contraceptive pill - no matter what the cost. Testing hormonal treatments on his female workers, and sexually exploiting them, Mordechai's secret immoral life and his successful company are threatened by the rise of Hitler and, years later, a shocking scandal involving his brash son. Will Mordechai ever find redemption, and will the women he manipulates regain control over their own bodies?
At the end of his life, Dutch Jew and dubiously ethical entrepreneur of the newly emerging field of pharmaceutical hormones, Mordechai De Paauw, is physically incapacitated but mentally fit enough to recount his life's story, which he claims helps him by "putting off the time of departure." The tale seems solely for Mordechai's benefit, however, as he recalls cavorting with one factory girl after the next, refers repeatedly to the former power of his phallic "beast," and generally drones along in an unconvincing first person. Set in the before, during, and after of World War II, Goldschmidt, who is Dutch and whose own father survived Bergen-Belsen, has a potentially riveting connection with the history. More often than not, though, that history is established through overly expository statements such as, "We were in the throes of the most serious economic recession the world had ever seen, and since those uncertain times a reorganization might become necessary, I wanted to be in a position to make the right decisions when the time came." As both De Paauw's own family and Europe as a whole crumble, he holds fast to his determination to invent what will next change the world all over again the Pill, but the book never becomes as interesting as all its elements would suggest.