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Title: The Spy
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Biography
Publisher: Penguin Random House India Private Limited
The Spy by Paulo Coelho is based on the personal life of Mata Hari, the famous exotic dancer. The book begins with the execution of Mata Hari by the French firing squad when she is found guilty of being a spy. The story then takes us back to when she was a married woman and how she begins her journey from being a penniless new comer in Paris to a rich and popular exotic dancer who seemed to have the most powerful people at her feet. Her dancing and beauty stood out from the rest because of her independent way of life. And how, during the first world war, she was found guilty of committing treason, albeit of no fault of hers, and was sentenced to be executed.
The book is a short read highlighting only the personal high and lows of Mata Hari. The narrative is divided into two, first from her point of view and the other, in the form of her lawyer's letter that he had written, having failed to rescue her from prison.
I thought the book began fantastically with the execution and it continued to hold my utmost attention until the part where the lawyer's letter began. The letter explained how sorry he was that he couldn't save the admired celebrity from execution but, in my opinion, it was rather stretched and unnecessary. The book ends with the letter thus, left me with a bad taste but otherwise, I would say, it is a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed the personal journey with Mata Hari and empathized with the challenges that she had to face back then as an independent woman. One must read the book solely for the purpose of the depth of the emotions displayed and the directness with which the author has bared Mata Hari's life. Truly, a misjudged personality, a sad loss among the many others in the past as a result of our parochial approach.
Here are some quotes from the book that I particularly enjoyed:
"Love, that inexplicable and dangerous thing, sweeps everything you are from the face of the earth and, in its place, leaves only what your beloved wants you to be."
"Sin was not created by God; it was created by us when we tried to transform what was inevitable into something subjective. We ceased to see the whole and came to see just one part; and that part is loaded with guilt, rules, good versus evil, and each side thinking it's right."
"Love is an act of faith and its face should be covered in mystery. Every moment should be lived with feeling and emotion because if we try to decipher it and understand it, the magic disappears."