|To-go||Sit and Savor|
|Rated G||Rated R|
The Spy by Paulo Coelho is a story about Mata Hari, a woman who led a life that is easy to romanticize. From India to the stages of Paris, to being a spy during WWI, her life seemed like an exciting ride. Though there was more to the story, as she tells it.
Coelho assumes the voice of Hari, writing a letter to her only daughter, whom she had abandoned when she was very young, about her life as she waits to hear whether she will be sentenced to death.
She recounts her childhood, and some violence that she’s encountered. She discusses her marriage, and the continued violence that she experienced there as well. She recounts her life in India, and her life breaking free, and how she made a name for herself as a dancer in Paris. She also talks about her life as a “spy”, a role that it appears she only pretended to play to get a free passage home during the war.
The book was very factual for someone leaving a final account of their life, days before receiving a death sentence. It’s also brief, maybe to a fault. The reader may be left wanting more – we know that she danced and was famous, but the details, the glamour, the joy of it all of was brushed by very quickly. We know that she fell in love, but we don’t get details on how or why or any tender moments. We know that she found herself in scary situations, but we seldom feel real fear. The book flies over a fascinating life, but doesn’t provide much emotional depth, something this woman must have had in spades.
It’s a quick read, and the author provides information on a life that’s interesting to know, but the book could have gone much further to capture who this woman was, and the extraordinary circumstances that she found herself in. It could have dared to be longer, to dive into days, moments, scenes of love, glory and fear. The voice seems too high-level and perhaps doesn’t capture a woman’s authentic voice.
Would I Recommend It?
This reader was glad to learn about such an interesting woman, but wanted more.
And, well, here’s the thing – I don’t think that I personally like this author’s writing style. I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t like The Alchemist, the book Coelho’s probably most known for.
I’d be curious to know if any of you have read (and liked) The Alchemist and, if so, what you thought of The Spy.