The Spy: A Novel

The Spy: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

Book Review/Summary:

This author has the great ability to tell a story that makes you want to keep reading.  While many hear stories of the Mystical Mata Hari, this is written almost as if she was looking back over parts of her life while she was in jail.  While reading one is intrigued by this woman who was accused of being a double agent during World War II.  The actual story is not as dramatic as the myths, and at times the reader feels sorry of Mata Hari.

I could not tell if it is the way she used sex, power, and love or if it is her lack of them but desire to have them that was her downfall.  Paulo Coelho has some words of wisdom in this book, as he does in all books (and all books have advice about life in some way).  I think my favorite was on page 68 “When we don’t know where life is taking us, we are never lost.”  Some of the advice comes from a woman who has had her heart broken and looks at love in a cynical manner.

The book does not go into details about her love life nor the gritty details of the traveling that caused her to be considered a spy.  The novel was able to be reading in one day, because the pacing of the book makes you want to keep reading.  While hard to put down, the pacing also allows for the details to be glossed over.  The ending is an interesting read, not because you know she is executed, but what happens afterwards.


List of Characters:

Maragaretha Zelle = Mata Hari’s birthname, named after a famous actress

Sister Leonide = nun in charge of Saint-Lazare, the women’s prison in Paris that held Mata Hari.

Maitre Clunet = Mata Hari’s lawyer, she writes a letter to him, one of Mata Hari’s lovers

Adam & Zntje Zelle = Mata Hari’s parents, father defended her against accusations of her being a woman of easy virtue

Rudolf MacLeod = Captain in the Dutch Army, marreid Maragetha on July 11, 1895, met when a friend of his placed an ad in the newspaper saying he was looking for a husband, meant as a joke

Andreas = officer in Indonesia, his wife killed herself in fron of Margaretha

Monsieur Guimet = gave Mata Hari her first chance to perform

Madame Guiment = knows some truths about Mata Hari’s background, gives her advice on love and maintaining fame

Astruc = Mata Hari’s agent

Adolphe Messimy = France’s former Minister of War & was a Deputy of the National Assembly when he was one of Mata Hari’s lovers

Franz Olav = brought Mata Hari to Berlin

Karl Kramer = Asked Mata Hari to be a spy for Germany when she went to see him at The Hague

Georges Ladoux = head of counterespionage, responsible for the Dreyfus case, and uses Mata Hari to regain his standing in the government

Sister Pauline = was the bridge between Mata Hari and her lawyer when she was in jail.


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