Monday, July 11, 2016

Book Review: Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Title: Mata Hari's Last Dance
Author: Michelle Moran

First line: We don't take a horse-drawn cab to his office.

Review: I read this book -- on the slim side at 272 pages -- on the flights to-and-from my work conference at the end of June.

A first person biographical novel of the infamous dancer-slash-spy, this splashy story has it all: winsome heroine, Paris, love affairs, rags-to-riches, a tearjerker of an end.

My only complaint is that I just wanted more; and given the many inaccuracies and mysteries about the woman known as Mata Hari, I'm surprised Moran didn't go deeper (or, hell, longer!) with her story. Instead, it feels like she stuck with the outline of events known for sure, and what's there is good -- it just didn't feel quite like enough.

Margaretha "M'greet" Zelle MacLeod's story begins as she's reinvented herself in Paris as Mata Hari, an Indian dancer trained at ancient temples. Discovered at a seedy bar by a lawyer who becomes her agent, in a way, M'greet charms and scandalizes Parisian society with her exotic, modern dance, done in the nearly nude.

Barred from ever repeating a performance, M'greet invents more and more shocking dances, earning a string of wealthy lovers in the process. Slowly, through her friendship with her lawyer, we learn a tiny bit about her childhood and marriage, but most of the novel depicts the events leading up to her trial during World War I as a German spy.

M'greet's end genuinely made me teary, and it speaks to Moran's skill that she could evoke such emotions in such a short page span. Which makes me even more excited for her other books -- I own about three of them -- and they're bumping up on my TBR now.

A perfect weekend read for this summer (or, say, a Read-a-thon!).

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 20th Century / World War I / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Mata Hari / World War I / Espionage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Touchstone (7/19/2016)
Source: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction


  1. I don't mind if an author expands on what is known as long as she (or he) indicates in an Afterword which is which.

  2. I'm not that familiar with Mata Hari so this would all be new to me.

  3. Despite the blogosphere's general love of Michelle Moran, I somehow haven't read any of her books yet! I'm going to keep an eye on this space, so if you end up reading more of her work I will depend on you to tell me which of her books is the best book.

  4. Sounds like this one is too short to do the subject justice in true Moran fashion. I'll still give this one a try though.