Bookshelf Review~The Spy by Paulo Coelho

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Historical fiction I love. This author’s work I love. This book brought to life the historical story of Mata Hari (Margaretha Zella) who became famous as an exotic dancer and high-end prostitute to powerful and rich men. The character is painted as a strong and independent woman whose ” only crime was to be an independent woman.” She was betrayed, executed, and used as a Scapegoat to distract the publics attention from the brutal loss of young men’s lives due to the war at that time.

Immediately the book grabbed my attention from the very beginning starting boldly with the execution. It was engaging, easy to follow and told in the first person by Mata Hari and the Lawyer through letters they wrote.

It creates Mata Hari as a very strong character who had come from difficult circumstances. She was raped at 16, then found herself in a physically and sexually abusive marriage, she suffered the death of a son, whilst her abusive husband had custody of her daughter. I felt her desperation to survive and thrive. I felt her courage and strength to reinvent herself and do what she needed to do to survive. I don’t know that she had many choices however she chose a daring and controversial path.

It was a great read, although I feel it glamorized her position as a dancer and prostitute. I really wonder how much choice she really had, how much pain she suffered, and how difficult it must have been for her at the time. The book makes it sound like her time as an exotic dancer and prostitute were easy.

However, I liked that I could admire her for being strong, taking control of her life, and daring to think out of the box, use her smarts, looks and talents to survive and thrive. Whilst from the beginning to end she was treated unjustly, especially the final betrayal by men and her country France, and yet she never acted like the victim, rather with pride.

Overal it was an interesting and engaging read, I think I would like it more had it been a little grittier.

Wishing you all a wonderful day

.FRAN DISHON