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Signed, Mata Hari

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  442 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
In the cold October of 1917 Margaretha Zelle, better known as Mata Hari, sits in a prison cell in Paris awaiting trial on charges of espionage. The penalty is death by firing squad. As she waits, burdened by a secret guilt, Mata Hari tells stories, Scheherazade-like, to buy back her life from her interrogators.
From a bleak childhood in the Netherlands, through a loveless
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 14th 2007 by Little, Brown and Company (first published November 1st 1932)
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Dandelions in the Garden by Charlie CourtlandAngels Fallen by Francis SmithThe Dracula Dossier by James ReeseSigned, Mata Hari by Yannick MurphyThe Hidden Will of the Dragon by Charlie Courtland
Notorious Historical Fiction
4th out of 17 books — 32 voters
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska OrczyOutlander by Diana GabaldonThe Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Off With His/Her Head!
31st out of 34 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 22, 2008 Oriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
See, even though I'm a communist-leaning hippie, I, like any good little consumer, have a bit of a newness fetish. I wear the new (thrift-stored) skirt as soon as I have a sufficiently nice opportunity, I start using the new (freecycled) hair gel before I have quite finished the old one, the new (salvaged) bowl seems so much nicer than the other ones in the cupboard. And so it is with my books as well. Even though I have a little library filled with hundreds and hundreds of pretty paperbacks, mo ...more
Cody Wilshire
Jan 14, 2008 Cody Wilshire rated it really liked it
While not historically accurate, it was a rather poignant and lyrically beautiful story. Yannick's writing is simply wonderful and you find yourself being sucked into this world she's created for you. At times it's rather blunt and a bit graphic, but never vulgar. I finished this much more quickly than I originally thought I would because at times, I just couldn't stop reading.
Oct 16, 2007 Lauren rated it it was ok
I wouldn't have read this if I wasn't reviewing it. I have very mixed feelings about it - the writing was gorgeous - erotic, lyrical, and when Murphy was imagining the life of Marguerite Zelle, things took off. But overall the book wasn't very good - any historical information is uncomfortably tacked on and try as she might, Murphy does not create a sympathetic character.

The most interesting part of her life - to me - is how an untrained Dutch orphan passed herself off as an exotic temple dance
What is more captivating of the imagination than the story of a beautiful dancer turned enemy spy? I was thrilled to check this book out of my library, but ultimately was disappointed with the story of a woman who should have been easily able to capture the attention.

First of all the writing is technically good, but I found it very difficult to read through the jumble of short vignettes that Murphy loosely tied together. I like more depth and detail in my books and this novel is striking in its
Mar 31, 2008 Renee rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, prose, at times this book read like a dream.
Mata Hari was one of the most well-known exotic dancers of all times, yet her true fame came after the accusations that she was spying for Germans during the First World War. A fascinating person in real life, she takes on added dimensions in the beautifully written novel "Signed, Mata Hari" by Yannick Murphy. This exquisite novel portrays Mata Hari as a daughter, a lover, a wife, a friend, a mother and more, but first and foremost
Jan 02, 2008 Jim rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Exotic dancers on tight schedules
Signed, Mata Hari is fictional account of the life and times of Mata Hari, the exotic dancer whose death by firing squad during WWI catapulted her into the public imagination as a femme fatale. Murphy explores how a Dutch girl who went with her husband to Java when it was part of the Dutch East Indies become one of the notorious women of the 20th century. Sort of.

Although Murphy's subject is fascinating, her approach feels over-determined. The narrative is chopped up into extremely short chapter
Nov 25, 2009 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mata Hari was a dancer, a courtesan, a spy. Above all she was a mystery. As she awaits death by a firing squad in 1917, she whispers some of her secrets to us...

I don't know how much of this is fictionalized but the author did a good job in keeping my interest. The majority of the book is in first person with Mata Hari telling her life story beginning with her childhood in the Netherlands, through a loveless marriage in Java to her scandalous life as an dancer and later a spy during WWI.
Antoinette Sherman
Aug 14, 2013 Antoinette Sherman rated it really liked it
I was curious about Mata Hari and didn't know much about who she was so when I found this book, I immediately started reading it. I feel the story, although fictional, gave me an insight into who the character was. The writing is really good too, very creative. I found some brilliant verses here and there. The author is definitely talented and I will be looking to read her other books.
Dec 26, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it
Estava com muitas expetativas em relação a este livro, pois Mata Hari foi um espia fora do vulgar. No entanto, acabou por ser uma história banal...

Em 1917, Mata Hari está numa prisão francesa à espera de ser julgada por espionagem. Com muito tempo livre, ela recorda a sua vida e reflete sobre a sua situação atual. Mas, em vez de focar a parte mais fascinante do percurso de Mata Hari, aquilo que a transformou numa mulher singular – as danças exóticas e a sua capacidade para espiar os dois lados e
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it liked it
So what do you get if an author decides to write a fictional biography of an exotic dancer back in the early turn of the century? You will get this book. This was a quick read, the prose was rather easy on the eyes, and the plot was simple. No twists and turns that are unexpected.

Mata Hari was a certain Dutch exotic dancer, who lived in Java, and then came back to Holland. Later in her career, she was found guilty of being a spy for the Germans in the First World War. She was then executed by fi
2 and 1/2 stars, really.
I don't know how to review, I have mix feeling about this.

The early chapters are very promising but during the course of reading, the mixture of the 1st person and the 3rd person narration became very confusing, still the writing was great but the character Mata Hari/Margaretha Zelle was under-developed, I feel I didn't learn anything new about her, she's still a mystery even after I finished reading. The thing is Murphy tells a lot about her and how she feels but the
Gregory Rothbard
Jul 29, 2011 Gregory Rothbard rated it really liked it
What were the events that lead up to Mati Hari's appointment with death, by firing squad? Was she a spy? Maybe. A victim of certain acclimate circumstances? Most definitely.
This book shows what happens to a woman with few resources in a maddening cloud of war. Mati Hari did her best to reclaim her identity and her children. She may have been a high priced call girl, but the book illustrates that she did this out of dire need. She was left behind by an abusive husband; the husband took her child
Mar 06, 2008 Jae rated it really liked it
I wasn't as taken with this novel as I have been with all of Murphy's past works, but I'm still giving it four stars as it possesses the skill and contemplation that I have come to expect in her novels. I must admit that I previously had no interest in Mata Hari as a person and that I recognize the main character in this novel as a fictional character. I think people who like "historical fiction" that is a genre that contains a bit of information that is accurate might be disappointed by this "a ...more
I suppose my lack of research for books on Mata Hari should be rewarded justly - by a novel more fiction than any type of historical contextual element. I wish that I had picked a more accurate telling but all the same I did get a somewhat high level idea of Mata Hari's life and times in a very romanticized, poetic, slightly soft core porn-ish way.

Yannick Murphy's strength is captured with the way that she can turn a phrase and make mundane descriptions really sing. However the novel was frantic
Sep 13, 2012 Julie rated it it was ok
Light on detail,
Long on getting anywhere.

How awful to be thinking, when you know someone is going to get executed ... get on with it! But that's the way it was.

This was a quick, easy read and, while the writing had a strong poignant quality, I did not find enough depth to satisfy me. The story was told in flashback, jumping between Mata Hari in prison and Margaretha growing up. We are presented with a picture Margaretha : an abandoned girl, a young woman in a loveless marriage, an ingenue in the
May 12, 2014 Lynn rated it it was ok
Mara Hari is a fascinating historical figure. Unfortunately the book was not fascinating or historical. I learned more about the woman in a 2 minute web search and her life was fairly dramatic. This book imagined her time in Java and St Lazare prison. But the book didn't bring the drama and excitement that her life seemed to exude.
Oct 01, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing
My favorite Murphy book thus far. Great perspective on a story that everyone has heard of but doesn't really know. She scares me a little bit with the way she is able to get behind the eyes of Mata Hari...:-)
Apple Austria
Feb 06, 2016 Apple Austria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
like maléna, she was introduced as a victim of circumstances. erotic and exotic, not scheming but profound. the style used added to her already mysterious persona. i should like to see this as a film.
Bookmarks Magazine

Yannick Murphy's novel certainly seduced reviewers, but such seduction may have derived from the author's literary dance rather than from readers' inherent interest in the subject. Critics admired Murphy's masterful descriptions, shifts in perspectives, and attention to details alternately selected and invented from the real Margaretha Zelle's life. The result is a poetic novel that will draw in even those who never thought they would enjoy reading about exotic European espionage. (The case docu

Aug 20, 2008 Katherine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction/Literary Fans
An excellent read that sheds light on the life of Mata Hari. I don't know if the novel correctly depicts her life, since this is historical fiction, but it nevertheless gives voice to a woman who, today, has become merely a whisper of the notorious legend's life as a spy. Yet this book is more than just the life and times of a suspected spy during WWI. It's actually a love story between a mother and her daughter--and the lengths that a mother has to go through to keep her daughter in her life. T ...more
May 20, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mature teens/adults
Recommended to Kelly by: Elle Magazine
Absolutely phenomenal read. I stayed up half the night to finish it. Beautifully written. I love how graphic the story plays out in this woman's life and the author allow's the reader to ponder at times between the reality and guessing - is Margaretha living the life she thinks she has or is she envisioning all of this for herself? Breathtakingly described through lush seas to the dingiest hotels and brothels where she is asked to do the unimaginable ~ her story is one that could have been any w ...more
Good book! This book made me want to do some research on Mata Hari. I'd heard the name, but didn't know the details. Will read more by this author.
Pam Conti
May 15, 2008 Pam Conti rated it really liked it
Recommended to Pam by: Florida - Novel Night Book Club
Shelves: 2008
I enjoyed the story of Mata Hari and how it was written, alternating between her life in prison prior to her execution and her life before her arrest, from a young girl to her fame as an exotic dancer.

I enjoyed many of the discriptive passages from the book...for example, Mata Hari digging up the tulip bulbs, or how she discribed the smells of Java.

The book also told of the struggles of poor children or women who did not have a decent man too support them. They seemed to have no rights; the me
May 24, 2016 Magali rated it it was ok
2.5 estrellas
Lo que más me llamó la atención de este libro es la forma en que está escrito, con capítulos cortos de 3 páginas como mucho y algunos de sólo unos párrafos.
Samantha Farnsworth
Aug 04, 2016 Samantha Farnsworth rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!
It was interesting to see another, more intimate side of Mata Hari.
This book had wonderful voice, I couldn't put it down.
Jul 17, 2011 CuteBadger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the occasional gems I've managed to pick up from Poundland (a UK chainstore where everything costs, you've guessed it, 1). When buying these cheap books I'm never sure what to expect, but this one was worth the cost many times over.

I was fascinated by the novel's portrayal of the life story of Mata Hari and found myself completely swept up in it. Yannick Murphy's writing is beautiful and equally compellingly portrays the heat and closeness of the tropics and the cold of a Parisian
Feb 05, 2016 Silviana rated it it was ok
Este livro foi-me recomendado e digo desde já que me custou muito lê-lo. Mata Hari é uma personagem imensamente conhecida, e eu nunca tinha ouvido falar dela. "A maior espiã do mundo" disseram-me.
Percebo que Mata Hari realmente existiu e era vista como uma mulher exótica e fascinante no seu tempo e mesmo hoje em dia. Adorei a sua história de vida, a única razão que me fez querer terminar o livro foi querer saber o final.
O facto de ter dado duas estrelas foi por causa da escrita da autora. Muit
Sep 05, 2016 Cindy rated it really liked it
Although not totally factual, close enough to get a glimpse of the infamous Mati Hari.
Jan 19, 2008 Marjanne rated it it was ok
This novel is based on Mata Hari. I have never really read anything about her before so I don't know how much of the story is true. I did look it up on Wikipedia, and from there it seems that this is a story based on some known facts. This is labeled fiction, so it's really not a problem that the story is not exactly true. What I disliked about the book was that Mata Hari was so passive about her life. The character seemed to drift from one event to the next with most of it making little impress ...more
Jennifer Rives
May 13, 2010 Jennifer Rives rated it liked it
I know this book is fictional but I could not stop myself from looking up photos and information about Mata Hari while reading it, so brought to life for me was she. The vivid imagery of Mata Hari's thought patterns and recollections borders on surreal, while also providing the means by which the reader sympathizes with this ethereal protagonist. The most tender aspect of it for me was the very believable love revealed by Mata Hari as a mother, an ingenious trick for the author to use in writing ...more
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Yannick Murphy is the author of the novels, The Call, Signed, Mata Hari, Here They Come, and The Sea of Trees. Her story collections include Stories in Another Language and In a Bear's Eye. Her children's books include The Cold Water Witch, Baby Polar, and Ahwhoooooooo!. She is the recipient of various awards including a Whiting Writer's Award, a National Endowment for the Arts award, a Chesterfie ...more
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