This is a tough book to review. It left me feeling sad. While I was somewhat amused by the author's take of the Netherlands and the Dutch people, the main subject matter of the book is disturbing.
Several (many?) years ago, the author spent a semester of law school in Amsterdam studying International Law. At least, that was what he was supposed to be doing. His real motive in going to Amsterdam was to indulge his voyeuristic tendencies and explore the "red light" district. He wanted to discover why women chose a life of prostitution. And to write a book about it.
To do this, his methodology was to hang around the district, trying to befriend prostitutes, to get them to open up to him about their career choice. He found himself shut down, time after time. Eventually, he finds one woman who indulges him, meeting him for a few lunches.
On his last night in Amsterdam, he finally convinces her to meet with him and be interviewed. He then proceeds to drag the woman through hell, pulling out her darkest, most disturbing secrets about her upbringing and life. While this might be helpful if done by a trained psychologist, in a controlled setting, it most definitely should not be done by a untrained person, for the purposes of satisfying his own voyeurism! And, after he drains the woman of all her memories and shames, he just leaves her! Up and leaves the very next morning.
That would be a sad enough ending for the book, but the author is not done. He returns a few years later, and finds the woman again. For what purpose, I have no idea. She has turned her life around. She's out of the prostitution business, is engaged, and has a young child. But upon seeing the author again, she tells him that she will give up all she has, all she has worked for, if the author will take her. And what does he do? He leaves her again! How cruel!
So, here it is, several years later again. He finally writes his book. And ends it with the hope that the woman, who he has lost touch with, sees it. As if to torture her one more time. What a prick!