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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Title: Mata Hari's Last Dance
Author: Michelle Moran
Publisher: 19 July 2016 by Touchstone
Pages: 288 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


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 Thoughts

"Tell me where you learned to dance?"

Thus begins the tale of Mata Hari. I am a huge Michelle Moran fan and her take on strong historical women. I did not know much about Mata Hari - an exotic dancer who reportedly worked as a double agent during the war. This book, as many have commented, was most definitely on the light side coming in at under 300 pages. Sadly that may be a key factor in why this tale seemed to lack depth and what we came to learn about Mata Hari seemed superficial. She came across (as some have described her) as naive and easily duped (American historians Norman Polmer and Thomas Allen) and only cared about enjoying life, not fully appreciating the impact of war.

If Moran could have provided more historical detail - both on her thoughts and of her sad past/upbringing/marriage - it may have provided a greater appreciation of what made Mata Hari into the woman described. From this respect it was certainly disappointing as all Moran's previous novels were rich and detailed. I mean, Mata Hari is a great figure from history to choose to write about and it was interesting to learn about some of her life story and the struggles she overcame. However, when compared to Moran's other books, this one just lacked depth and did not delve enough above the simple course of events. Even then, I found the timeline unclear at times and months at a time would somehow disappear. 

"You have a living daughter?"

For without that detail I failed to develop a sympathetic connection with Mata Hari and often viewed her thoughts and actions as selfish and silly, immature really. Instead of giving us more of her past, we were presented with a list of her liaisons and conquests, when all I really wished was to understand more of what made her into this exotic woman that the world remembers. I also felt more time needed to be dedicated to the political dramas unfolding at the time, from all viewpoints French and German. However, much detail is given of the cities and places that Mata Hari performed at - from France to Spain to Germany. 

 Moran's still remains one of my favourite authors. Who knows, maybe she wanted to leave it up to the reader as to whether Mata Hari was selfish and sinful or really that smart double agent? All of this said, I did enjoy the book, not one of my preferred Moran tales, but nevertheless, a worthwhile introduction into the woman the world came to know as, Mata Hari. 

"I think of all the people in my life who know the truth, but all of them are gone."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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