Signed Mata Hari: Book summary and reviews of Signed Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy

Signed Mata Hari

A Novel

By Yannick Murphy

Signed Mata Hari
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2007,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

In the cold October of 1917 Margaretha Zelle, better known as Mata Hari, sits in a prison cell in Paris awaiting trial on charges of espionage. The penalty is death by firing squad. As she waits, burdened by a secret guilt, Mata Hari tells stories, Scheherazade-like, to buy back her life from her interrogators.

From a bleak childhood in the Netherlands, through a loveless marriage to a Dutch naval officer, Margaretha is transported to the forbidden sensual pleasures of Indonesia. In the chill of her prison cell she spins tales of rosewater baths, native lovers, and Javanese jungles, evoking the magical world that sustained her even as her family crumbled. And then, in flight from her husband, Margaretha reinvents herself: she becomes an artist's model, circus rider, and finally the temple dancer Mata Hari, dressed in veils, admired by Diaghilev, performing for the crowned heads of Europe. Through all her transformations, her life's fatal questions---was she a traitor, and if so, why?---burns ever brighter.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In its subdued way, this novel is an eloquent cri de coeur and a belated witness for the defense." - Publishers Weekly.

"Does the literary world need another fictional tribute to Mata Hari? If it is penned by the inimitable Murphy (Here They Come, 2006), the answer is yes .... a mesmerizing novel that creatively reimagines the life of one of the most notorious, and perhaps overvilified, women of all time." - Booklist.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Monte
signed mata hari
The world's view of Mata Hari as a spy and seductress is challenged in this interesting "point of view" novel. Poetic in its language, it provides all the elements of an outstanding and persuasive defense closing argument. Tracing a life that leads to her inevitable end, but swept by currents beyond her control - or often, beyond her understanding - this book will pull you in. Plan to settle comfortably and enjoy the read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Michele
Signed Mata Hari
I enjoyed this book, especially because I knew the "name" Mata Hari but didn't really know any real information. It was easy to read and hard to put down at times. The author did an excellent job of depicting the character and the atmosphere to get a clear vision of the time period and what was going on.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Donna
Mata Hari
I did not like this book because the format was difficult to understand because the author changes time periods from chapter to chapter. This was confusing and by the time I understood it was happening I did not want to finish the book. I would not recommend this book.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Nancy
Mata Hari
This book was a lovely surprise. I knew nothing of Mata Hari and while this is a fictionalized account of the infamous spy, I learned much about the depth of her character. The alternating chapters reveal accounts of her past and her imprisonment in France. She didn't just decide to become a spy. The evolution from Margarethe with a troubled childhood and marriage to the bold Mata Hari evokes the complexities of how individuals become who they are. While I may have thought of Mata Hari with disdain before reading this book, I now see her with great empathy and even feel a connection with her. This is a great read and I think women especially will enjoy it.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Rosemary
Signed, Mata Hari
At first I found the novel confusing until I started sorting out the characters. The author is very effective in switching from the past to the present and her writing style is delightful. By the end of the book you feel as if you have an insight into Mata Hari and wonder if different circumstances would have changed the fate of her life. The author also did an excellent job of tying in the beginning of the book with the ending (edited to remove plot spoiler).

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Pamela
Signed, Mata Hari
I am very impressed with the author. From the beginning, I loved the lyrical language and the character that she was able to flesh out. I knew nothing about Mata Hari, which drew me to the book. With the short chapters, it made it easier for me to pick up and put down at this busy time of year. But I found myself not wanting to put it down at all. As she tells her stories, you become totally hypnotized by this woman. If you want to learn a little, be entertained and find out what lyrical really means, pick up this book!

...10 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Yannick Murphy Author Biography

Yannick Murphy is the author of the novels Signed, Mata Hari; Here They Come; and The Sea of Trees, as well as two story collections and several children’s books. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Chesterfield Screenwriting Award.

Her work has appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She lives in Vermont with her veterinarian husband and their children.

Link to Yannick Murphy's Website

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