Signed, Mata Hari

“Mata Hari”….two words that are known to quicken the pulse of many a man. Mata Hari was reputed for being transfixing, suggestive, alluring and captivating. Mata Hari (or “Eye of the Sun”) is so much more exotic than Margaretha Zelle, but the two are one and the same.

 Margaretha was born in the Netherlands. In this novel, Margaretha spends her life filled with a sense of greatness, after cheating death as a young child when she walked across the cold northern sea despite an incoming tide. In her formative years she fell prey to the hands of an abusive teacher. She later married a military man and moved to Jav, Indonesia. She mothered two children. One of whom died and haunted her throughout her life.

 Locked in a loveless marriage, Margaretha recreates herself. She adopts the name of Mata Hari. She associates with the Javanese natives. She learns their exotic native dances. She takes to wearing sarongs instead of western clothing. The gap between her and her husband widens. As her husband turns to prostitutes, Mata Hari initiates a string of affairs. Trouble is brewing. Eventually the family moves back to Europe. Mata Hari’s life goes from bad to worse. Her estranged husband prevents her from mothering her remaining child. Mata Hari finds herself a twice haunted woman. Without her children and her husband’s support, she finds herself alone without financial means. She reinvents herself and creates a name for herself with her exotic, fluid, entrancing dance performances. Coveted by many high powered and influential men, she makes many male contacts. Some confide in her during moments of weakness.

As war breaks out, many people are willing to sell out on others for minimal profit. Mata Hari finds herself used as such currency. Perhaps she knows some information. Perhaps she knows some secrets that she shouldn’t. Was she a spy or a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time? Accused of espionage. Imprisoned. Facing death by firing squad at forty-one years of age. Death, that she had escaped at such a young age, and prided herself on evading, returns to claim her.

 Signed Mata Hari is written in a beautiful, lyrical manner filled with a magical lilt. Author, Yannick Murphy has achieved the portrayal of Mata Hari’s “voice” rather than the description of her famous body and physical existence. This is a story of love, sadness and loss, espionage and treachery.