The Spy

the spy book cover

The Spy
Paulo Coelho
Alfred A. Kopf, 2016

Fiction, Historical
190 pages (hardcover)

Buy: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Borrow: Worldcat

Her only crime was to be an independent woman.

When Mata Hari arrived in Paris, she was penniless. Within months she was the most celebrated woman in the city.

As a dancer, she shocked and delighted audiences; as a courtesan, she bewitched the era’s richest and most powerful men.

But as paranoia consumed a country at war, Mata Hari’s lifestyle brought her under suspicion. In 1917, she was arrested in her hotel room on the Champs-Elysees and accused of espionage.

Told in Mata Hari’s voice through her final letter, The Spy is the unforgettable story of a woman who dared to defy convention and who paid the ultimate price.

— description from publisher


This book came up short, both in length and in depth. At merely 190 pages, it gives a cursory overview of Mata Hari’s life leading up to her execution.

The letters between the famed Mata Hari and her lawyer (and former lover) don’t reveal much about her. This book is an example of an author using his words to tell rather than show. The most descriptive portion is the list of items contained within Mata Hari’s trunks at the time of her arrest.

At the end of the book, I wasn’t even sure she was a spy. She never admits to it, and for the lawyer’s part, his argument makes her sound like an innocent woman caught up in schemes beyond her.

For its faults, it did pique my interest about Mata Hari, and I’d like to read a non-fiction title in the future. 


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