In his new novel, Paulo Coelho, best-selling author of The Alchemist and Adultery, brings to life one of history's most enigmatic women: Mata Hari. The story of her celebrated yet mysterious life as an exotic dancer and courtesan, and her controversial execution as a spy during the First World War, unfolds as a fascinating first-person narrative of self-creation and bravery.
Her only crime was to be an independent woman: "I do not know if the future will remember me, but if it should, may no one ever view me as a victim but as someone who moved forward with courage and paid the price she had to pay."
On the occasion of the centenary of Mata Hari's execution for espionage in 1917, Paulo Coelho reconsiders her life and character in a fictional memoir. In a series of letters written from prison on the eve of her death, Mata Hari reflects on the choices she has made to always pursue her own truth - from her childhood in a small Dutch town to unhappy years as the wife of an alcoholic diplomat in Java to her calculated and self-fashioned rise to celebrity in Paris and across Europe as an exotic dancer and confidante to the most powerful men of the time. Though there was little evidence to incriminate her, Mata Hari was unable to escape persecution and prosecution by French military intelligence, and at the novel's end Coelho re-creates a final letter, written by Mata Hari's lawyer, Edouard Clunet, that offers a captivating view of Europe at war and the fatal price of suspicion.
©2016 Paul Coelho (P)2016 Random House Audio
The strong woman wins, of course, by living her life on her terms. The story is told in two voices: first the woman herself and then her male (and only) ally. I found the the woman character and her first-person narrative engaging (and a refutation to anyone who would say that a male novelist should not write as a woman). The historical setting is well rendered as a time of cataclysmic change, dangerous for everyone. Our heroine does not flinch.
The treatment of and rational for judging women has changed little over the years.
The story would have been better told by someone other than the star. Too self absorbed. Summary at end saved it for me.
From Wilm., De. Love reading and audiobooks. Other interests include cooking, attending cultural events, my dogs, birding, music and movies.
A very well written story, interesting and nicely narrated. I was a little disappointed that the story was brief. I was expecting more of a biography. The book begins at the end, then flashes back to the events that led to her current dilemma. Her younger years were briefly mentioned and detailed events that led up to her imprisonment. Definitely worth the read.
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