Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Review of Signed, Mata Hari

Not that you were asking, but here's what I thought of my second library book (the first being a book club title that none of us ended up liking...so it was a great time to get a library card--I didn't have to spend my money on it!).

I'm not sure if it was the juxtaposition of the bad book club book or not, but I thought Signed, Mata Hari was well-written--the language was lovely and the novel felt dream-like. Perhaps too dream-like, but I'll get to that. It was also pretty sad--she didn't have the best life.

The novel proposes that Mata Hari (born Margaretha Zelle) was actually a victim of circumstance and not a spy at all. The dreaminess of the novel made it hard for me to relate to her. At times she seemed very childlike, at times flat out insane. Her husband was painted as a drunken adulterer, yet when he writes a letter to his sister in the novel and says that his wife is like a child and he can't trust her with the kids, I kinda agreed with him.

The book has lots of sex, what with her being a famous courtesan and all, so if you don't like that, I wouldn't read it. In the novel she seems to just go where the wind blows her into bed with no feelings at all behind it. Perhaps that's what bothers me; it's as if the author couldn't imagine what Mata Hari would be feeling, or didn't want to presume to imagine it, so the reader is deprived the opportunity to step into the book fully. At the end of the book, before she's shot (no spoiler there, you can look her up on Wikipedia), she says that death is like coming out on the other side of a cloud, and the book itself feels like it's wrapped in a cloud, or a veil.

Regardless, I think it was worth reading, and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed learning more about her. I've sprinkled photos of her in her fabulous and scandalous costumes throughout.

I read some article about Dita Von Tease being cast in a Mata Hari biopic. I'd see that. I love Dita.

Next up on the library list: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni. It's supposed to be a retelling of the Mahabarata.


Anonymous said...

I've always heard that Mata Hari was kind of stupid, so I don't know that this is a new interpretation of her. But it's unfortunate the author couldn't or didn't identify with her more.

Let me know how Palace of Illusions is. That looks interesting.

Pica Maloria said...

I I think I'll read the Pat Shipman Mata Hari book that came out recently. She wrote a terrific book called "The Evolution of Racism" that gave insight into Darwin and how his theory was misused to promote racism.