The actions of two petty saboteurs fighting for social justice in the face of capitalism, a seamy English business man in love with Germany and a distracted young man who has come to West Berlin ostensibly to dodge military service, are played out against the back drop of political change that climaxes in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Mario and Daphne carry out almost insignificant atrocities against the plague of 'yuppy' cafés spreading across West Berlin in the name of Class War. Daphne has met Friedrich hitching from Cologne with Peter Picker, an English man who plans with Friedrich to bring about the collapse of communism in the DDR by introducing the drug Ecstasy.
The book continues as a series of barely connected events, linked principally to the main protagonists and their pasts. As the Berlin Wall collapses, each of them has to reassess as the political system and status quo that they fought or sheltered under changes forever.
But is anyone ever 'pleasured'? The encounters seem nearly devoid of emotion, as meaningless as they are apparently random. In this respect, Hensher seems too far detached, and prone to let his prose ramble. Then he returns with an insight into his characters, into love, into Germany itself, that goes someway into justifying this ambitious book.
As one of the most important events at the end of the twentieth century unfolds, Hensher questions the impetus behind it, curiously comparing the state endorsed destruction of the Wall with the endorsement of hatred and destruction by a different German state that resulted in Crystal Night over fifty years previously.
But it is in the minutiae, the day to day details of the lives of those who people the book where Hensher succeeds most. This is where the reader can truly be 'pleasured'.