Most everyone has heard of Mata Hari. But how many of us truly know who she was ? MATA HARI’S LAST DANCE, by Michelle Moran, brings this infamous woman up out of the ashes for all to see.
I’ve been doing some online sleuthing now that I’ve completed reading the novel. So much of the story is actually true. Moran has once again done meticulous research and used it well to drive the story behind one of the most misunderstood women in history.
Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod ( M’greet ) was born in Holland in 1876. Even though she would love for you to believe she was born somewhere much more exotic like Egypt. Her father abandoned her and her mother and brothers when she was young. When her mother died, she was sent away to a school where she was abused and her brothers were sent to work in abysmal factories. Desperate to flee a horrible situation she answered an ad posted by a much older man seeking a wife. Off she went with this despicable excuse for a man, all the way to Java. Ugh.
Java did not work for her either. After giving birth to two children, and losing one tragically, she fled this relationship as well. Living in poverty in Paris she was spied trying out for a dancing position which she failed at terribly. But, she was discovered by a man who would become her “protector” for life. His name was Edouard Clumet. And this is when the fun begins.
When Mata Hari dances everyone pays attention. And there’s certainly a lot to pay attention to. She’s definitely exotic, and she’s also almost always nude. Sometimes she dances with a snake. And sometimes she wears a jeweled bra and dozens of magnificent jewels. At times if you are seated in the front row you may be treated to a special “peek” of Mata Hari:)
Clumet knows everyone in Paris, and Germany, and Spain. He books Mata Hari to dance for audiences who come to adore her. She is the toast of every city she visits. And she charms men right and left. Rich men are her forte, but what she really can’t resist is a man in uniform. They set her up in apartments and houses that she could only have dreamed of before. And she begins to take it all in. Never having had any money, she spends lavishly and doesn’t save. To say she’s a courtesan is a bit like saying Michael Phelps can swim a little. She’s a tramp! Let’s just put it out there… But it works for her, until it doesn’t.
As the first world war looms, Mata Hari is finding it harder to keep up. Word on the street is that she’s spying. But is she really? I don’t think anyone will ever know. This is no secret. Was she a double spy? Some thought so. She was formally accused of spying on France for Germany in 1917 and arrested. She was shot before a firing squad. Mata Hari was 41.
Michelle Moran has a way of combining fact and fiction that is mesmerizing. Makes you wish to delve deeper to find out more of the story. The story of Mata Hari is no exception.
My lovely finished copy came from Touchstone, a division of Simon& Schuster. Thanks guys.