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The Spy

The Spy

I am wary of a man telling the story of a women who was, ultimately, killed for her woman-ness (sexuality? sensuality? I am struggling to find the right word that sums up the protagonist).  I wish that a woman author had written the tale of Mata Hari, a woman accused of espionage and executed at the end of World War I. Mata Hari - real name Margaretha Zelle - was Dutch; she married young to a Dutch officer and went to the Dutch East Indies, where she absorbed the culture. She fled her husband and became an exotic dancer in Paris. In Paul Coelho's The Spy, the reader learns of her life in a series of letters she writes to her lawyer while imprisoned. The story should be fascinating; the novel was not. I find the writing letter confession an overused trope and she just didn't seem that life-like to me. Her life is so damn intriguing (accused of espionage! famous lovers! dancer!) and she didn't jump off the page where she should have. She should have emerged as a strong feminist (albeit one who does not understand cultural appropriation). I am inclined to agree with the Washington's Post assessment that "Unfortunately, the Mata Hari who emerges from these underrealized pages is not fearless but clueless, not emancipated but incoherent -- and finally, no more plausible or interesting for the Coelho aphorisms that keep tumbling off her scented lips." The woman who blew a kiss to her executioners deserves a better tale of her life

Rating: ★★ 

The Daily Show (the Book)

The Daily Show (the Book)

A Whole Life

A Whole Life