09 January 2009

Book Review: Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy

So what do you get if an author decides to write a fictional biography of an exotic dancer back in the early turn of the century? You will get this book. This was a quick read, the prose was rather easy on the eyes, and the plot was simple. No twists and turns that are unexpected.

Mata Hari was a certain Dutch exotic dancer, who lived in Java, and then came back to Holland. Later in her career, she was found guilty of being a spy for the Germans in the First World War. She was then executed by firing squad. This book centers on her life, first as a married woman by answering a marriage ad in the paper, and the husband was a good-for-nothing army person stationed in Java. They had a bad marriage, both people were cheating on each other, and they have two kids. One kid dies, and the other is estranged to the mother, since the father always made the mother the bad guy in the family. Eventually, the family returns to Holland, and the father takes away the remaining daughter and leaves Mata Hari. Then she becomes a dancer. Then she gets plenty of different lovers, from different parts of Europe. Some of these men are generals, and therefore the possibility of being a spy comes up. The book does not really say whether she did espionage work, or whether she was just framed into it. In the end, she gets executed.

This book makes one feel like one is part of a dream world along with Mata Hari. However, I felt that the book was too fantastic, and the characters were rather underdeveloped. All the book focused on was Mata Hari's marriage, her quest to get her daughter back, and her sex. Yes, plenty of erotic descriptions of how men entered her and how it felt. It was very much like soft porn. This is one of those novels that you read, but then after reading, you ask, what was the point of that? Yes, it brands itself as historical fiction, and no, this is not a biography of the person, but I cannot help but feel that there was something lacking in this novel. Cohesion, maybe? I hated the fact that the novel started out with two story lines, juxtaposed together, one with Mata Hari's answering MacLeod's marriage ad, and another with Mata Hari in prison, eventually resolving into one storyline near the end of the story. The most irritating thing I suppose was the fact that the novel alternates back and forth between a first-person account and a third-person account. It was very confusing. All in all, I read it, I sort of enjoyed it, I won't recommend it.

See my other book reviews here.



(Entering the Mansion, from my Mount Vernon Series)

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