The cover design of the book (and the ads/promotions in last few months) easily helps reader to derive that the author has tried to re-construct the life of one of the most (in)famous spies of all time “Mata Hari”!
The book is quite fast paced and the pace does not drag even for a minute. The story starts with the ultimate fate of the character (facing firing squad) and then goes into flashback mode. The story is developed through a letter from the lead character, penned while undergoing trial in the court…. the letter is addressed to her lawyer, whom she regards as incapable and a non-fighter. The story in itself is not so much about the spying activities of Mata Hari, rather it highlights the social and political commentary of the era in Europe… the wars and the political maneuvering.
The story briefly touches upon Mata Hari’s early life (childhood and first marriage) and how she managed to flee from an abusive husband and landed in Paris. The book traces her journey of becoming an instant sensation as an exotic dancer in Paris and reaching the heights of fame and riches. The storyline delves into the ambitions of the character and how she managed to manipulate the powerful men of the period for favors in return. For her, dance was the epitome expression of one’s existence and realization of the spiritual purpose of one’s life, others viewed her merely as a mediocre dancer who did not have second thoughts about shedding clothing in public performances.
The reader is led to realize that the only real “Crime” which she committed was to be a path breaker as a woman in that era, of being a truly “independent” woman who lived her life on her own terms and which might have been the main reason for her Ostracism and final punishment. All in all it is a fantastic read and provides insight to help the reader learn more about the real “Mata Hari”…. not the image of the double agent- femme fatale which we have come to assume over the years. It is a breezy read and can be completed in 3 hours or so. Happy reading.
Rating – 3/5.
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