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Historical Fiction Review: Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran


Egalley thanks to Touchstone

Synopsis from Goodreads
From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.


 Audible US/UK | Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository

7.5/10

* * *
I've never read Michelle Moran before, but I certainly won't shy away from her books ever again. She is a great historical fiction author.

Everyone's heard of Mata Hari, they must have! However, history only knows her as a seductress, a courtesan and a spy who has been caught and executed . Michelle Moran paints a far more complicated reality.


She starts with Mata Hari's arrival to Paris and her reinvention of herself as an exotic Indian temple dancer. She is noticed by Eduard Clunet who becomes her agent and will stay at her side as her staunch supporter through all her ups and downs. Very slowly we discover who Mata Hari really is, her unhappy childhood, her marriage and subsequent separation from her husband, and at last her vivid desire to enjoy life and to dance. She is like a moth caught in the flame.

Her life is colourful and she shares herself freely, enjoying sex, adoration and glory. She is not a malicious woman, there is no mean bone in her body, but she is carefree, wastes opportunities and walks away from any chances to settle. Miss Moran describes the excesses and the sheer debauchery of the rich very well.

Then First World War happens, and that golden era comes to an end. Everything around Mata Hari changes, people have no place for frivolities and laughter, and she is met with suspicion and paranoia instead. I admit until then I wasn't taking her seriously as a character, but her troubles and the adversity she faces makes you feel for this hapless poor woman.

Last part of the book is absolutely poignant, and I was holding back tears. Mata Hari was a bright, beautiful woman, who enjoyed life and who became a convenient scapegoat for the two warmongering nations, and who paid with her life for it.

If you enjoy historical fiction and if you are interested in that era, read this book. It was vivid and interesting and at times heartbreaking. I really enjoyed it.

* * *
Я впервые читаю Мишель Моран, но после этой книги уж точно не пройду мимо её творества опять. Она прекрасный автор исторического фикшна.

Вы наверняка слышали о Мата Хари, экзотической танцовщице, куртизанке и шпионке, которую поймали и расстреляли в Первую Мировую Войну? Так вот, Мишель Моран обрисовывает более сложную картину её жизни.

Она начинает с приезда Маты Хари в Париж, где та пытается воссоздать образ экзотической индийской храмовой танцовщицы. Её замечает адвокат Эдуард Клюнэ, который становится её агентом и остаётся её верным другом до её смерти. Мисс Моран прекрасно воссоздаёт атмосферу золотого века, излишеств, дебоша и бесконечных возможностей. Сама Мата Хари как мотылёк, летящий на пламя. Она окунается во все излишества с головой, полная решимости жить по полной. В то же время мы постепенно узнаём о её несчастном детстве, кошмарном замужестве и трагедии, которая наконец-то подтолкнула её к радикальным изменениям.

Если честно, я не очень её ободряла до начала Первой мировой войны, когда её характер постепенно стал меняться, столкнувнувшись с ужасающими реалиями военных действий. Сам её образ перестал подходить настроению времени, паранойе и поиску шпионов, что в конечном итоге превратило её в такого удобного козла отпущения для германского и французского правительств.

Последняя часть книги вообще очень трогательная, и у меня прямо комок стоял в горле, пока я её дочитывала. Рекомедую всем любителям жанра и этой эпохи, написано замечательно. Оценку я занизила так как книга сосредоточена больше на биографических эпизодах чем передаче самого характера героини, но это никак не влияет на качество, только на моё мнение.
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