REVIEW: The Spy by Paulo Coelho

December 15, 2016

I remember I read the beginning prologue by Paulo Coelho in Eleven Minutes, where he met a guy who said to him that his books made him dream. Agree to that. Well...

It's been years since high school where I first read Paulo Coelho books. The first one was The Alchemist. Yes, the book gave more sort of hope in my despair and a motivation to find joy in reading (more of his) books. At the time, as a young bookworm, I felt gaining more peace and wisdom as I read Coelho's writings. Anyhow, with the current situation I'm having lately, those pledge in my heart fell off.

I'm back to be... another stressed out estranged dark person, trying to say hi to people with positive energy yet can't help with my own sadness.

No books have made me feel better for a long term. All has been short term.

When I heard that Paulo Coelho would publish another book, I was like... umm, okay. His latest works, The Aleph and Adultery were just ok. I loved them. But it's just ok. Maybe I wasn't just in the mood for such stories. It might another phase as a bookworm. Dark clouds have controlled all over me. Fine. Could be, no?

The situation changed when I knew the book is about Mata Hari. The alleged spy from the World War I. How cool, I thought.

So, when there was a pre-order from Periplus, I surely went for it! Again, every pre-order I make with Periplus, it makes me feel awesome. 

Then I felt the sparks of long-lost excitement just like when I had in high school years, my first years with Paulo Coelho's books. I really can't describe how it was like, but it becomes a good motivation for me to get things done fast and right so I can have special time with it.

After reading about Mata Hari on the internet, I was hoping to get something more on The Spy. Certainly, her life as an Erotic Dancer that became an international sensation for art and visual pleasure wasn't ordinary. Even more, she was executed... because she was considered a spy.

Margaretha Zelle was born a Dutch. She married after finding an ad about a Dutch soldier stationed in Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) looking for a wife which turned out made by her former husband's colleagues. According to the book, she was molested by her school principal just like many of her classmates. Due to this misfortune, her husband became violent towards her.

This is where I remember Jesse Eisenberg's line in Cafe Society, life is a comedy, written by a sadistic comedy writer. 

After giving giving birth to two children that one didn't survive, she witnessed a wife of another soldier who was captivated by her, committed suicide. She thought people might think if she killed that woman or whatsoever. The next day, she insisted to go back to Netherlands.

Once she got back with all the family drama, she decided to escape and create a new self. Named her self Mata Hari, without nothing, crossing the borders to France. Then, she did everything she could to survive---impress French elites with her made-up exotic and erotic Asian dance.

The fame didn't last long in glory as critics started to give negative reviews after piles of positives thrown to her once in the beginning of her debut. Imitators were following her steps and taking over her spotlight. Well, c'est la vie, huh? So, things were getting harder, although she survived by being a free woman... a mistress of high-rank government and army people.

It was almost all smooth for her, before the war burst out and the proposition came to her for being a spy for France and Germany. Yes, both.

What I learned from the book is that Mata Hari is so much different from the writings I found on the internet. Paulo Coelho wrote her as a victim turned a survivor, yet still naive and clueless. Well, she was indeed a charmer and had the capability to manipulate men. It's just she didn't learn her lesson.

Because all connections she made went nothing when she was caught in deep shit.

Her country, The Netherlands, preferred to stay neutral during the WW I. Ignoring their citizen's life who was at stake. Somehow, it was pretty unlucky, another unlucky fate she had, as she was actually trapped by her own spy game---a game where she never played her role as a spy!

I love how Paulo Coelho brought Margaretha Zelle's version of more humane, less cocky and simply unfortunate person who tried her best to fight for freedom (as a woman, as a human being). But some of the facts were different from the news you can find on the internet. However, I was expecting more deep research to be written here, which now after reading the book doesn't give me anything 'wow' moment, but confusions: which one is real?

Plus, I didn't find anything I've read before (from the internet) in the book, or maybe it's just rumour.

At the first pages, it opened by the day of her execution. The aging Mata Hari who refused to wear blindfold while facing her death given by the firing squads. It tricked me to think she was a Great kind of character.

Yes she was, but not that 'Great'. But I agree, she's really iconic, I can tell.

Even so, I know that Paulo Coelho dig more into her feminism power of becoming her own true self, by gaining control of her life after a messed up marriage.

But still, reading The Spy has very much different take out, unlike when I read The Alchemist or Veronica Decides to Die long time ago. This is just... plain. Maybe I have read so much about Mata Hari before I skipped these pages of The Spy. Maybe I was over-exposed of how media portrayed this woman as a failed and arrogant spy.

I can't lie that I was actually expecting her story when she was in Indonesia. Turned out, it was a crazy brief part of her life, but not much to tell despite she actually learned a lot of things I never thought foreigners might learn from Indonesians.

Well, if you haven't heard about Mata Hari, you might be a little surprised and wow-ed by her fight for life. It's a bit drama twisted plot, but still enjoyable, page-turner, and easy-reading.

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  1. I love the Alchemist, and I agree with you that some of his works become the same. I think I will still check it out though....