Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran

A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Touchstone Books in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.


This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From exotic Indian temples and glamorous Parisian theatres to stark German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.

As usual, with a Moran book, I could not put Mata Hari’s Last Dance down! I knew Mata Hari had been a spy, but I honestly had no idea for whom she spied, when, nor to what end. This fleshing out of her story is written with Moran’s typical depth of detail and a broad richness of texture. Her characters are always intricate and flawed, and their complex humanity shines through. Though Mata Hari’s life was certainly risque in her height of fame (this is not a book for everyone–the woman takes her off clothes),  it seems it was also filled with trauma and unfulfilled hopes. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the reminder of how much I appreciate Moran’s writing. I still have Rebel Queen on my shelf and I must read it soon.

4 stars. The woman is an exotic dancer, so use discretion.

4 Stars

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