Sunday 29 May 2016

Mata Hari's Last Dance

Finished May 19
Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

This novel takes the real life events of the woman known as Mata Hari and builds a fascinating story around them. Mata Hari was born Margaretha Zelle in the Netherlands. Her father left the family when she was young and her mother died soon after. She married young and went to Java with her husband, but dissatisfaction with the marriage and personal tragedy caused her to leave.
Trying to find work as a dancer in Paris, she was discovered by the lawyer Edouard Clunet, and that is where this novel begins in 1904. We see her take her natural skills both physical and mental, and turn them into something that drew others to her, even as it fed her insecurity. Her relationship with Clunet was not like the ones she cultivated with her many lovers and patrons, and she confided her real concerns to him. Her insecurity and love of the limelight drove her to her fate.
As the book unfolds, we learn of her past, She was not highly educated in a formal way, but her natural curiosity led her to read voraciously on subjects that interested her, and she spoke many languages. She met a local woman in Java that taught her how to dance and her curiosity fed her knowledge about the culture she adopted. Her patrons included Guimet, the Rothschilds, Jeanne de Loynes, and Givency, but she was always drawn to military men above others, and it was one of these who spoke up on her behalf at her trial.
Mata Hari was executed by firing squad for treason on October 15, 1917, as a symbol during a difficult period of the war. Her trial was held in secret and facts that did not support her guilt were dismissed without consideration. This book unveils her life in a new way and was gripping.

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