Sunday, November 25, 2007

Signed, Mata Hari - Yannick Murphy

Signed, Mata Hari
Yannick Murphy
Little, Brown and Company


She was born in the Netherlands and named Margaretha. By the age of seventeen, her father had left and her mother had died. By the age of eighteen, while living with an uncle, she had answered a classified ad placed by a captain looking for a wife. In short order, she was married to the older man, who was often abusive, and moved to Indonesia. Years later, having lost everything, she returned to Europe and became a famous exotic dancer and courtesan. Most famously, she became a spy. And, in the end, she was arrested and executed for her activities.

No matter what you think of her, and she will give you cause to doubt, Mata Hari is arguably the most famous female spy in history. Much of her life is a mystery. This book fills in the blank spaces with little vignettes told in tiny chapters that read like the pieces of a dream. Some of them read like memoir, some like biography. All are beautifully and compellingly written. There’s almost a sense of disconnect, as if the woman who would be Mata Hari moved through her life, yet remained untouched by it. And this is the hypnotic allure of Mata Hari. She knows, as a dancer, as a spy, as a courtesan, and as a storyteller, that sometimes it’s what goes unseen, unsaid, that tells the real story.

Rating: 9
November 2007
ISBN# 978-0-316-11264-2 (hardcover)


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