Books: Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

I've enjoyed Moran's books in the past, particularly the ones about Nefertiti and Nefertari. However, I knew more about those lives going in than I did about Mata Hari when I picked up this book. All I knew of Mata Hari was that she'd been a dancer and supposed spy. I couldn't even have told you who she'd supposedly spied for.

Now I know.

The book is told in first person, which gives us some of Mata Hari's feelings. Yet somehow it all still feels rather thin. It's not a bad book—it's a quick, smooth read. But it's like gliding over the surface of water rather than plunging in. Mata Hari's Last Dance is a glass-bottomed boat. I can see the fish and the colors but I still feel separated from them. Disconnected.

It may just be that I don't connect with Mata Hari herself. Maybe she doesn't interest me enough. In this version of her, she seems to make the same choices and mistakes over and over again, so I found it difficult to sympathize despite her sad life. I understand her motivations, her desire and need to be taken care of and always have enough so that she might never again suffer the privations of her youth. That's fair. But here my understanding did not progress into any kind of empathy.

In short, this is a good book. It simply didn't entirely work for me. I never felt fully immersed. But I don't know if the glass in the boat is mine or Moran's.

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