I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran
Release date: July 19th, 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
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.
Michelle Moran is most definitely my favourite writer of historical fiction. I fell in love with her Egyptian royalty trilogy and have since eagerly awaited each new release. She has this knack for bringing complex women to life, especially women from history that aren’t well known or viewed as being one dimensional. When I saw that she was writing a book about the scandalous Mata Hari, I couldn’t contain my excitement. How would she portray such a well known and controversial person?
The book opens with the origin story of Mata Hari. I loved reading about how a young Dutch woman who fled her broken marriage and had been able to reinvent herself as an exotic dancer influenced by the cultures and religions of India. The rags to riches story sounds so romantic. However, the reader also realizes that nothing is black and white with Mata Hari, she easily blends the truth with lies, making it quite difficult to tell what is real and what she has invented. This is what really drew me into the book at the start. She’s such a complex character and Moran uses this to her advantage. I felt so many emotions when it came to Mata Hari. I feel for her, she’s been through a lot in life (poverty, abuse, rejection), but she’s so slippery and willing to do absolutely anything to better her position in society that at times I found myself quite disgusted with her. But this is why I adore Moran’s books. Her characters are never just one thing. They are flawed and morally questionable, but so, so human. The reader gets to really know them, the good, the bad and everything in between.
As with her past novels, this book is extremely well researched. Moran knows her stuff, she’s a lover of history and a former teacher. She’s able to include a lot of historical information without making it seem forced or like an information overload. It’s definitely not historical date, explanation of the war, battle…blah, blah, blah. This is why the book can appeal to anyone, no matter how much knowledge they have about the First World War or Mata Hari. What it will do is peak your interest in the time period. The events, especially the opening stating that Mata Hari had been arrested for espionage, encouraged me to find out more about this fascinating character.
In past reviews of Michelle Moran’s books I have raved about how she’s a must read author and a master of historical fiction. This book further proves my point. Moran never fails to amaze me and I can’t wait to see what or who she’ll write about next! Definitely pick up this book!