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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"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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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 childrens books. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers 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.
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