The Spy- Paulo Coelho (2016)



“Her only crime was to be an independent woman.”

“Eye of the Dawn” in Indonesian, Mata Hari was the stage name of the infamous Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War 1 and was executed on 15th October 1917. Her story is one that stands out with bold elements of luxury, glamour, intelligence and deep pathos at the same time.

Portuguese writer, Paulo Coelho has given a new direction to this historical figure in his autobiographical account of Mata Hari in “The Spy”.  The description of her execution in the Prologue is gripping. She was neither bound nor blind folded but faced the 12 gunmen unafraid.

The story is narrated in first person by her beginning with a letter to her lawyer. History projected her in a derogatory manner and this impression is sure to change as the book progresses revealing fine details of her life events. Despite the luxury, she was troubled and faced a lot of betrayal which is quite ironical in comparison to the fact that she was accused of espionage.

Although Paulo has got all the historical facts perfectly well in The Spy, the story in itself seemed very short and had an abrupt ending. The characterization was a little rustic. Nevertheless, what is truly astonishing is Paulo’s keen understanding of women which is seen in some of his other novels as well. Many intense lines in the book that are worth reading over and over are a proof of his insight. There are also photos scattered across the book that make it more interesting and personal and cause us to really wonder upon Mata Hari’s life. Over all, a feminist novel coming from a male writer is definitely praiseworthy!

Years after her execution, the Mata Hari Foundation demanded that the case be reopened, claiming that she was innocent and wrongly framed by the French. Maybe she was really innocent. Maybe her..

biggest crime was being an emancipated and independent woman in a world ruled by men.”

Maybe she was much more than just a dancer with a tarnished reputation. Maybe she was not a spy. Maybe she was just a woman who kept rebuilding her life every time it crashed down and that shows nothing but strength and bravery.

“I looked only toward the sunshine and forgot the storms. I let myself be dazzled by the beauty of the roses but paid no attention to the thorns.”

 “I am a woman who was born at the wrong time and nothing can be done to fix this. I don’t know if the future will remember me, but if it does, may it never see me as a victim, but as someone who moved forward with courage, fearlessly paying the price she had to pay.”

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. For those who have never heard of Mata Hari, “The Spy” is a good way to get to know this woman of many titles.

My rating for this book – 3.5/5





13 Comments Add yours

  1. Shiv says:

    As I am busy due to my schedule of job but your short brief of write ups are helping me a lot to go through.. thanxsss

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leha says:

      Thanks a lot. I’m glad my posts are useful to you. Will keep posting!


  2. Samuel says:

    Good book by Paulo Coelho and a good review. Some people are not understood and unduely victimized. This piece of leterary work may, to a large extent, redeem her and allow her soul to rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leha says:

      Yes, well said. Thank you.


  3. Evelynn Sheen Singh says:

    Interesting insight. The review does justice to the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leha says:

      I am glad you liked it!


  4. Ravish Mani says:

    Quite interestingly put forth, Leha. Liked your style of reviewing and completely agree that Coelho has a solid grip on female psychology.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leha says:

      Thanks Ravish. He sure does doesn’t he!


  5. pythoroshan says:

    Having been inspired so much by his first two books, I slowly lost my way… I haven’t read much from Paulo Coelho in the last decade to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jyoti Jha says:

    I have only read ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, and with so many other to choose from a long list of his books, I was wondering which one to go for next. Your remarkable input on this one has now made it easier for me. Reading this one next 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leha says:

      Yayy, glad it inspired you


  7. Pr@Gun says:

    Have read this gripping tale on the life of a legendary dancer accused of being a spy named Mata Hari. His characters and writing always connected you to the story so well. The story uncovers the tragic story of Mata Hari the cultural icon. thanks for sharing your views in the review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leha says:

      That is true, such a unique book


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