Book Review: The Spy

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Title: The Spy

Author: Paulo Coelho

Page: 208 pages

Plot: In his new novel, Paulo Coelho, best-selling author of The Alchemist and Adultery, brings to life one of history’s most enigmatic women: Mata Hari.

HER ONLY CRIME WAS TO BE AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN

When Mata Hari arrived in Paris she was penniless. Within months she was the most celebrated woman in the city.

As a dancer, she shocked and delighted audiences; as a courtesan, she bewitched the era’s richest and most powerful men.

But as paranoia consumed a country at war, Mata Hari’s lifestyle brought her under suspicion. In 1917, she was arrested in her hotel room on the Champs Elysees, and accused of espionage.

Told in Mata Hari’s voice through her final letter, The Spy is the unforgettable story of a woman who dared to defy convention and who paid the ultimate price.

Thoughts:   The Spy is based on the life of Margaretha Zelle, famously known as Mata Hari an exotic dancer who bewitched the most influential men of her time. The book is a historical fiction based during the World War 1.

As a child, Margaretha Zelle was abused by her school principal. She got married to an Indonesian solider and escaped from her home town. Soon she realized that her husband was an abusive man and she tried to put up with it for a few years but after a point she left him and their daughter behind to find solitude in Paris. In Paris she started a life as an exotic oriental dancer and in no time gained popularity amongst the Parisans for both wrong and the right reasons. Soon her lifestyle brought her into suspicion and she was charged of being a double agent and arrested by the French in 1917.

The opening of the book is with a bang on a very crucial note where Mata Hari is being executed by a firing squad and she refuses to wear a mask and faces her death in the eye. Mata Hari is a tale of a woman who dared to defy the conventional norms of the society and had to pay the price for it. There are many books written on Mata Hari but what sets this book apart is the format of the writing. It is written as a letter from Mata Hari to her lawyer and a reply from her lawyer to her. We feel Mata Hari’s pain, enthusiasm, passion, shame, courage, numbness all of it. The author has taken creative leverage and added his own version of fiction to the real story to make the book interesting.

If you like Paulo Coelho’s book and historical fiction do give this book a shot!

Ratings: 3.5/5

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Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

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Title:  By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Author:  Paulo Coelho

Pages: 208 pages

Plot: Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings . . . and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.

Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life’s biggest questions.

Favorite Quote: “Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move toward the unknown -even when we don’t want to and when we think we don’t need to.”

Thoughts:  By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is a tale of spiritual journey of love, sufferings and relationships. Just like most of the Paulo Coelho books, this book too projects things which have a greater meaning in life.

Pilar our protagonist is an independent woman whose expectations from life are getting a job, marrying having kids and living a normal life. Until she meets her childhood love who is a spiritual leader, who sees the world with a different perspective. He has the power to heal the pain and his destiny is to serve the world.

The narration of the book is very poetic and dreamy; the words pierce right through your soul making it a surreal reading experience. The story is average but the mystical narration makes up for it. I love that God is believed to be a female figure. I did miss out on a lot of Catholic references made in the book since I don’t understand Catholicism much but I could quite connect with the explanation of accepting, loving, surrendering, suffering and losing.

I would recommend this book to all those who are firstly Paulo Coelho fans and secondly interested in a well narrated story.

Ratings: 3.5/5

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