Although I’ve always had a slight skepticism about reading a book which wasn’t originally written in the language available for me to read, Paulo Coelho is one of the few exceptions I’ve allowed myself. Yet, I’m not a fan ardent enough to have read all his works.(I must admit though, that I haven’t, to this day, finished The Alchemist!) I’ve been a fan of the man since I laid my hands on Veronica Decides to Die. Coming to this book. Let’s first take a moment to appreciate the cover. It is beautiful, elegant, classy. One of the things that drew me to the book, I admit. The next reason I was drawn to it is definitely the fact that though it is largely fictitious it is based on real events, people and incidents.
The Spy : A novel is about Mata Hari, an exotic dancer accused of espionage. And any introduction or gist I could give for this read is less or unworthy compared to what Coelho himself has written in the book, which reads –
…I am writing this for myself, to convince myself that I did everything possible and imaginable; first by trying to get you out of Saint Lazare; then by fighting to save your life; and finally having the chance to write a book telling the injustice of which you were a victim for the sin of being a woman, for the greater sin of being free, for the immense sin of stripping in public, for the dangerous sin of getting involved with men whose reputations needed to be maintained at any cost.
The book, written in first person, is in 3 parts. The first two parts read as the last letter written by Mata Hari from prison awaiting the verdict on clemency. The first part leads us to how Margaretha Geertruida Zelle became “Margreet” MacLeod and eventually Mata Hari. It tells us how like many in her early ages she is an observer of the workings of the world and later on, as time proceeds, she takes hold of her destiny. The story moves revealing the ‘warrior’ in Mata Hari who doesn’t shy away from the adventure that is life. The third and the final part is written as a letter from her lawyer, who is one of her admirers. He reveals the third person perspective of the incidents that lead to her execution.
By the time I finished the book I was intrigued by the protagonist, Mata Hari. She was beautiful, proud and unabashed about any of this. Infact she used her beauty to her advantage and to garner power.
Rating : 3/5
Verdict: This book needs some background knowledge of the WW1 and by the end of the book it will urge you to get more background knowledge about Mata Hari, the protagonist.
ISBN : 978-0-670-08953-6
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre : Historical fiction
Pages : 190 pages
Vintage by Penguin Random House India, 2016