Book Review [4]: The Spy by Paulo Coelho

the spy

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.

Happy Reading!



Book Review [3]: Black Milk by Elif Shafak

black milk

Each human has voices inside his head. Those voices are either united making a human complete or — in most scenarios — they fight with each other inside a human brain and one of the voices benefits at the expense of others until some other voice takes over.

Elif Shafak’s head was also a messy one with 4 voices in her head which increased to 6 overtime – fighting, winning, losing. Elif was a single young woman, traveling and making her career as a writer, all while trying to grasp herself.

At the age of 35, when she was still against marriage, she met Eyup at a tavern in Istanbul and ended up marrying him in Berlin. At 37, when she was still horrified at the idea of having kids, she got pregnant and ended up giving birth to a daughter. With every miracle, her head got messier and then, after two months of delivery, she could not save herself from falling into Postpartum depression which affects a lot of new mothers. Despite the fact that she was irritated by her voices, she loved them and her depression locked all those voices and engulfed her.

What was worse? She could not do the only thing she loved more than any other: write.

Black Milk unfolds her struggle of making peace with the voices in her head and getting out of the Postpartum depression after the birth of her baby in 2006. Along with that, Elif Shafak tells the stories of the personal and public lives of various women writers. To me, it seemed like she was trying to interpret her life keeping their lives in view but in the end, decided to discover her own path while acknowledging theirs.

Black Milk gives an impression of Elif’s journal. She has fearlessly talked of her vulnerable brain exposing herself as a woman, a writer, and a mother. For me, as a woman writer, Black Milk put me in awe. Writing such a book was indeed something a writer hardly dares to do. Most of the autobiographies talk about the outer struggles of a writer; Elif Shafak has aimed the book on her inner struggles.

Since this book highly deals with feminity and writer-hood, I would suggest this book in the first place to women writers. In the second place, this book is for all women. In the third place, I would keep male writers. If the genre interests them, male readers can give it a read too. Though, somehow, I am sure they will leave the book midway.

I would always be grateful to Elif Shafak for this book since I cannot stop thinking of writers, writing, and books. The sound of tapping at the keyboard has become my favorite music. What better gift for a writer than this?

Back to Elif Shafak: After her daughter, she gave birth to a son. At the end of the book, she tells her readers:

Our daughter’s name is Shehrazad Zelda – the former from the charming storyteller of the east, the latter from Zelda Fitzgerald. Eighteen months later we had a son, Emir Zahir – the former from the old traditions of the East, the later from the story by Borges, “The Zahir,” and a book by Paulo Coelho, “The Zahir.”

Elif sure is a crazy woman. May history never forget her. Amen.

A Thought on Women’s Day

A few days ago, I read a news on Daily Mail that a person spent a fortune to get his genitals removed to be a genderless alien for the sake of eradicating gender discrimination. Then, Emma Watson, who, besides being an actress, is also a feminist, got a photo shoot for Vanity Fair in which she exposed her boobs and the world started talking if she could be entertained as a serious feminist or not, because to them feminism is not acknowledging yourself as a woman but someone who fights for equality. Blah.

Feminism is heading towards a dark end but we do have some good examples of women fighting for their gender like Muniba Mazari, Maya Angelou, and well, I also like Emma Watson.

I used to be so concerned about such news but today I decided that there’s no need to be because I live in Pakistan, a country which is way behind deciding if what that person did was right or wrong or if Emma Watson should be called a feminist after she showed her boobs.

Pakistan is still fighting with fathers who don’t let their daughters study, who don’t let them step out of their houses, who don’t let them fall in love with a boy… The brothers and the husbands are the same. Wait! Did I forget to mention that this shit which they call ‘protection of their women’ is just for their own women? They hardly leave a chance to enjoy somebody’s else women.

But I am actually sparing men. Today, I am writing to blame women.

A few days ago, some girls started sharing a series of photos on Facebook in which they kind of confessed that they are weaker than men and that they enjoy it. Those posts were calling against gender equality saying that men have stopped caring for women because women have started trying to equal them which is bad for women. Again, blah!

As an example, this is one of those clueless photos:


Translation: I like to not compete men and stay a step weaker than them. 


When asked, they say it’s in Quran. End of Topic. Well, this is that verse which they talk about:

Men are meant (to be righteous and kind) guardians of women because He (God) has favored some more than others and because they (men) spend out of their wealth. (An-Nisa: 34)

It doesn’t say men are stronger or women are weaker. This verse is just pointing out the responsibility of men that they have to protect and spend on their women. How ironic is this that non-Muslims hates Islam because of this verse since they think it is so against women and Muslim men keep their women under them and Muslim women are either happy to stay submissive or stand secretly or proudly against this verse and no women has ever cheered that God has asked men to spend on their women and there is not a single verse asking women to spend their money on men or even their kids. Their money is all theirs! They can spend it anywhere they want! (Oops! I ran a bit away from the real topic.)

I believe it is the time when women of Pakistan, actually all Muslim women around the globe, start standing for themselves knowing that their religion is not a hindrance but a power. And those women who are not Muslim, come on! we are all together in this quest. We are one. So, this day listen to some good women songs (I personally like Ain’t no man   by Angaleena Presley *wink*), eat some good food, and know that you are no less. After all, women empowerment or gender equality is not about being broad-shouldered, killing men, or stop acknowledging your body, it is about having equal opportunities and changing the world along with men.

So, stay blessed and shove some sense into you. Happy International Women’s Day!