Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Touchstone Books
First Published: July 19, 2016
First Line: "We don't take a horse-drawn cab to his office."
Book Description from GoodReads: From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.
Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.
As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.
From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: Since I read Moran's Nefertiti many years ago she has remained one of my go-to historical fiction authors. She has a knack for bringing strong female leaders from history to the forefront telling their stories with vivid detail and heart. Historical women such as Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Madame Tussaud, Josaphine Boneparte and India's Queen Lakshmi have had their stories shared by Moran and I've enjoyed them all.
Going into this book all I knew about Mata Hari was that she was a beautiful, seductive spy during WWI. Unfortunately, after reading this book I don't feel like I got to really know the woman behind the famous name. That said, this would have been a hard book to write because, although Mata Hari is famous, little is documented about her which leaves Moran to piece together the story and her idea of how events transpired. Even today Mata Hari's death is veiled in suspicion and conspiracy.
Unfortunately I didn't feel as drawn into this book as I have with Moran's previous works. I didn't have a connection with Mata Hari and felt that the book lacked Moran's usual depth of story and emotion leaving me with little sympathy for Mata Hari's decisions which were often selfish and quite immature. I think if more time was focused on Mata Hari's past I could have gotten a better understanding of how and why she became such a well-known historical figure.
Instead the focus was on Mata Hari's numerous romantic conquests where the names and status of these men began to blend together with few of them being memorable. The political scene, an important part of Mata Hari's story, was alluded to but not enough detail was given leaving me to feel like I wasn't quite grasping what was going on.
Due to the fact that Mata Hari's life continues to be shrouded in mystery this book was a big undertaking. And while this book wasn't my favourite book of Moran's she still remains one of my favourite authors and I look forward to her next book.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Touchstone books for providing me with an e-book copy in exchange for my honest review.