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Signed, Mata Hari: A Novel Hardcover – November 14, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In life, at least before the espionage charges, it was Mata Hari's body that made her mesmerizing; in this alluring novel, it is her hypnotic voice. As softly poetic as it is insistent, it entices the reader from the first lines to give Mata Hari what she always craved: not the secrets that are the currency of a spy, but the rapt attention that is oxygen to a performer. Shifting time and perspective, the tale moves among Mata Hari's early childhood in the late 19th-century Netherlands, her years in Java as a caring young mother married to a brutal military man, her glamorous but desperate career as a famed dancer and courtesan and her bleak existence in a Paris prison after her arrest as a spy for Germany during WWI. Murphy (Here They Come) sticks with the true ending to her subject's story, which was death by firing squad, and what makes the novel an unlikely achievement is how Murphy nurtures, before the shots are fired, a potent skepticism about the guilt of a woman whose name even today is synonymous with treachery. In its subdued way, this novel is an eloquent cri de coeur and a belated witness for the defense. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Yannick Murphys novel certainly seduced reviewers, but such seduction may have derived from the authors literary dance rather than from readers inherent interest in the subject. Critics admired Murphys masterful descriptions, shifts in perspectives, and attention to details alternately selected and invented from the real Margaretha Zelles life. The result is a poetic novel that will draw in even those who never thought they would enjoy reading about exotic European espionage. (The case documents will be unsealed in 2017, then revealing whether or not Mata Hari was a spy.) The only consistent criticism of the book was that some of the sex scenes seem more mythological than realbut then again, this is Mata Hari.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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This was an unfortunate woman, but it often seems as if she just goes with the flow... no moral compass. Finally, it all catches up with her. Truly sad.
I did not like the author's writing style and found most of the prose rather simple. The story goes back and forth between Mata Hari's final days in jail to her earlier years as a daughter, wife, mother, prostitute and "spy". The author presented a picture of a tragic woman. Yet, I did not find that I liked or empathized with the character.
It will be interesting to see what my friends think of this book at our discussion this evening. I have already heard one positive and one negative review. I know how I will vote!
This was a quick, easy read and, while the writing had a strong poignant quality, I did not find enough depth to satisfy me. The story was told in flashback, jumping between Mata Hari in prison and Margaretha growing up. We are presented with a picture Margaretha : an abandoned girl, a young woman in a loveless marriage, an ingenue in the making BUT I never felt that the effort was made to present a picture of Mata Hari : exotic dancer, performer, courtesan, spy. That part of her life lacked vivacity and colour and she seemed always to be presented as rather pathetic and a bit of a bumpkin.
I love The Call by Yannick Murphy ... and thoroughly recommend it. It was the reason I went in search of other works by her.
Margaretha learned the skill of disconnecting at an early age; a skill that would serve her well in her short, difficult life. After her fourteenth birthday, her father left her and her mother. Not long after, her mother died. Margaretha was sent to live with her godfather, an arrangement that didn't last long because he could not support her. He quickly sent her to live and teach at a school. There Margaretha learned little about teaching and children, but much pleasing about men. At seventeen, she was sent to live with her uncle, ending the first of her many love affairs. Through a newspaper advertisement, Margaretha found what she hoped would be the answer to her dreary life. Captain Rudolph MacLeod, an Indies Army captain, was seeking a wife.
Soon Margaretha discovered that MacLeod was not the perfect husband. He often came home after heavily drinking and sleeping with other women, only to force himself on his wife. And despite his continued adulterous behavior, was a jealous and controlling when others showed interest in her. Soon after her son was born, Captain MacLeod was sent back to Indonesia, where he continued with his philandering ways. Margaretha changes her name to Mata Hari, Javaneyse for "sunrise."
Since her husband continues to have many women, when both of their children are poisoned, killing one, Margaretha blames him. They move to a new area, but the situation does not improve. After years of unhappiness, infidelity and fighting, Mata Hari, her husband and child move in with his sister. Things continue to go down hill and eventually, Captain MacLeod leaves his sister's house with his daughter and Mata Hari is left to fend for herself. This begins her decent into dating numerous men and eventually leads to her arrest.
Written from different perspectives and time frames, Signed Mata Hari, is a book of intrigue, deception and mystery that will keep you guessing and captivated. I found it sort of hard to follow sometimes and was slightly clueless about some of the terms used.
Armchair Interview says: A young woman's struggles of survival.