Book Review: Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran
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)
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction