In his 16th book, Paulo Coelho has sprinkled the fiction over the non-fictitious story of the great Mata Hari giving it his own typical style of slow rhythmic sentences with multiple quotes. However, he has chosen this book to be a fast read, unlike most of his other books.
Mata Hari was the name Margaretha Zelle chose for herself when she arrived in Paris after leaving her drunk and sadist husband who was a Dutch Army Officer. In Paris, she became a dancer who with her exotic dance performances enthralled not only men but also women.
Her first mistake was to agree to work as a double agent for France and Germany, at the time of World War 1, just because she wanted to stay in the city she loved: Paris — though she did not provide any secret information to any of the countries. Another mistake was her narcissism, as his lawyer told her, “I saw that you were more interested in showing your importance than in defending your innocence.“ (In court.) Her mistake was also to take help of prominent men by seducing them. So, when it came to helping her, they were all too concerned about their reputation than in saving her life.
Paulo has chosen a unique way of writing the book through letters. First by Mata Hari to her lawyer, Mr. Clunet, and second, vice versa. Nevertheless, this book felt strangely incomplete and left us wanting to know more about Mata Hari’s inner voice and also what happened after her execution. Personally, I wanted to know a lot more about her daughter and also about Mata Hari from her perspective.
As Paulo mentions in the blurb, Mata Hari’s only crime was to be an independent woman but, to be honest, her crime was to be a woman whose brave dance made her independent. Then, as she did a few minor mistakes and aged, men did what they always do with women like her. In 1947, after a few years of Mata Hari’s execution, the prosecutor of Mata Hari confided to a journalist saying, “Between us, the evidence we had was so poor that it wouldn’t have been fit to punish a cat.”
Those who are Paulo Coelho fans would love this book since Adultery was quite disappointing. Those who are not into Paulo’s books will definitely be happy to know about the woman who took fate into her hands but lost the fight, yet winning a place in history as one of the strong women. Believe me, Paulo has tried his best not to sound as indistinct as he does in his other books.