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In the cold October of 1917 Margaretha Zelle, alias Mata Hari, the infamous exotic dancer, sits in a prison cell in Paris awaiting trial on charges of espionage; the penalty, death by firing squad. As she waits, Mata Hari tells stories - much like Scheherazade - to buy back her life from her interrogators. From a bleak childhood on the shores of the North Sea, through a loveless marriage to a Dutch naval officer, Margaretha is transported to the sensual pleasures of the south seas. She spins tales of native lovers and fragrant Javanese jungles; she tells of the ugly disintegration of her family. Then, in flight from her brutal husband, Margaretha reinvents herself: she becomes the temple dancer Mata Hari - dressed in veils, admired by Diaghilev, performing for the crowned heads of Europe. Tender, subtle and intensely erotic, Murphy's retelling of an iconic story is a haunting portrait of love and treachery.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349120218
ISBN-10: 0349120218
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 125mm x 18mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 4-Sep-2008
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » An impressionistic portrait of the famous spy - in reality an abused wife and mother with intense sexual charms.Abandoned by her father and orphaned when her mother died, young Dutch Margaretha finds herself working for a teacher who molests her, then dependent on her unsympathetic uncle. Seeking escape, she enters into a bad marriage to MacLeod, a cruel, promiscuous, half-deranged army captain. Murphy's third novel (Here They Come, 2006, etc.) switches between Margaretha's dreamy but chronological account of her unhappy progression and scenes from later prison life, in which she is tended by nuns and interrogated by the French for spying. After the birth of their son Norman, MacLeod and Margaretha move to Java, where his behavior worsens. Wearied by the tropical rain, Margaretha starts to use the name Mata Hari, meaning sunrise. She has an affair with another Dutch officer while MacLeod visits prostitutes. A daughter, Non, is born, but MacLeod's abuse of one of the servants leads to the children being poisoned and Norman dies. Mata Hari survives typhoid and eventually persuades MacLeod to move back to Europe. Once there, he ejects her from the marriage and excludes her from care of Non. Short of cash, Mata Hari is forced to become an erotic dancer in Paris and mistress to men who reward her with jewels, cash, even a horse. When World War I begins she is asked to spy by the French but exposed by the Germans, later arrested in Paris, tried and shot. All she ever wanted was her daughter back.Vague on facts but intense, atmospheric and erotic, this is more prose poem than historical novel. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Yannick Murphy

SIGNED, MATA HARI is critically acclaimed US author Yannick Murphy's fourth book. Her novel THE SEA OF TREES was published in the UK by Bloomsbury to critical acclaim. Yannick Murphy lives in Vermont.

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